Broad comedy and goopy melodrama are combined to digestible but hardly delectable effect in “Joyful Reunion.” Though billed as a sequel to “Eat Drink Man Woman,” replete with intergenerational conflict, romantic uncertainty and elegantly prepared cuisine, this Taiwan-China co-production has no characters in common with Ang Lee’s 1994 foodie favorite and is working with story ingredients of a markedly lower quality. Bland, Lazy Susan-style crowdpleaser could stir up respectable local numbers but won’t sell like hotcakes overseas.Tsao Jui-yuan’s largely Hangzhou-set dramedy faintly echoes “Eat Drink” by focusing on a legendary chef (Kenneth Tsang) and his loving but not-uncomplicated relationship with his overachieving daughter, Wa’er (Huo Siyan), but the six-scribe screenplay complicates the stew by introducing Wa’er’s nerdy, neglectful b.f. (Blue Lan) and his blowsy, ill-mannered Taiwanese aunt (Rose Kuei). How these relationships play out is neither engaging nor persuasive, though there are eye-candy compensations in the sumptuous production design, from the gleaming waterfront health spa where Waer works, to her father’s exquisite restaurant, though the all-vegetarian menu won’t satiate all food-porn appetites. Bluntly speaking her mind one minute, showing off her dancing abilities the next, Kuei steals the show.
A Taihe Universal Film Investment Co. (in China)/Tang Moon Intl. Prods. Co. (in Taiwan) release of a Taihe Universal Film Investment Co., Tang Moon Intl. Prods. Co., Zhejian Roc Pictures Co. presentation by Hsu Li-kong, Wang Wei, Sun Tianjiao. (International sales: Tang Moon Intl. Prods. Co., Taipei.) Produced by Hsu, Qian Shimu. Executive producer, Yeh Jufeng. Co-producer, Nina Han. Directed by Tsao Jui-yuan. Screenplay, Tan Miao, Chen Shih-chieh, Wang Tzu-ang, Yankee Zho, Neko Xu, Tu Hsiang-wen.
Camera (color, widescreen), Ching Ting-chang; editor, Ho Jien-huei; music, Baby-C; production designer, Lee Tung-kang; art director, LV Jing; costume designers, Lee Long-yeu, Hsu Shu-hua. Reviewed at Berlin Film Festival (Culinary Cinema), Feb. 16, 2012. Running time: 107 MIN.
With: Rose Kuei, Huo Siyan, Blue Lan, Kenneth Tsang, Chang Hsiao-chuan, Jiang Mengjie, Yang Yang, Li Qin, Huang Xuan, Ding Chiang. (Mandarin dialogue)