Two Stupid Eggs

A financially strapped door-to-door book salesman turns low-budget filmmaker, with comically disastrous results.

With:
With: Guo Tao, Annie Liu, Sam Lee, Cheung Tai-ming, Gordon Lam, Yao Chen, Huang Bo, Xie Na, Ying Zhuang, Li Qi, Wang Xun, Nie Ben, Xiao Jian, Ling Xiao-su, Chen Chen, Jo Yang. (Mandarin, Shanghainese, Cantonese dialogue)

A financially strapped door-to-door book salesman turns low-budget filmmaker, with comically disastrous results, in “Two Stupid Eggs,” a slickly produced satire on everything from new entrepreneurialism to grossout moviemaking in contempo China. Led by a fine perf from Guo Tao (the bemused ex-cop in “Crazy Stone”), and peppered with Hong Kong thesps including Sam Lee and Gordon Lam, “Two Stupid Eggs” will be best appreciated by Sinophile auds, though most of its laffs don’t require much local knowledge. Specialty fests and ethnic webs should check out this gentle audience-pleaser.

Almost totally unknown outside China, writer-director Kiefer Liu, aka Liu Xiaoguang and popularly known as A-Gan, has been cranking out comedy and horror hits for more than a decade, and in 2006 pioneered the Mainland parody pic with “Big Movie.” Original title of “Eggs” slugs the film as “Big Movie 2.0,” but the humor this time out is not parody-driven. And from its jazzily scored, 3-D animated credits, swooping over Shanghai’s skyline, “Eggs” is in every respect a classier, more confidant act, with a particularly well-constructed script by Liu and Wang Hailin, based (at least in its first half) on Pablo Berger’s 2003 Spanish movie, “Torremolinos 73.”

First seen addressing the camera directly, and trying to sell the book “A Guide for Newlyweds” to fellow bus passengers, Wen Yao (Guo) is behind on the rent to his H.K. landlord (Cheung Tai-ming) and not up to his husbandly duties with broody young wife Xiao Yu (Taiwanese thesp Annie Liu, “Exodus”), who runs a dog parlor. When he has his wallet stolen by a pickpocket (Huang Bo), he decides his life needs a makeover.

After bumping into an old schoolmate, Zhao Xi (Ying Zhuang), who’s into the DVD biz, Wen decides to self-produce a vid version of the manual, hocking the ancient 16mm camera of his onetime war photog dad. Despite Zhao’s coin, and the help of a Hong Kong neighbor, Mao (Lee), Wen has problems finding an actress; and when one two-bit thesp (Xie Na) sells her sexy audition tape to the internet, Wen finds himself splattered all over the yellow press.

Disaster follows disaster, as Xiao Yu, who’s being romanced by a camp dog-trainer (Lam), threatens divorce; Zhao’s triad-supported company is threatened with bankruptcy; and government goons from the (fictional) “Cultural Inspection Squad” demand to see Wen’s filming permit. But then Xiao Yu comes up with a surprising solution.

The dense, highly populated scenario maintains interest, and the pic never becomes the exaggerated pratfall comedy signaled by its title. Perfs, especially by Guo and (a mostly reserved but very effective) Liu as the central couple, are excellent; but the whole ensemble, including actress Yao Chen as a ditzy neighbor who joins the project, is juggled with considerable skill.

The film has a highly designed look by production designer Daniel Fu, with saturated colors in interiors that recall the early pics of Pedro Almodovar, and a score that’s attentive to the script’s shifting moods. Widescreen lensing by H.K. d.p. Andy Lam is a further plus to the tech package.

Original title literally means “Big Movie 2.0: The Incredible Affair of Two Fools.”

Two Stupid Eggs

China

Production: A Stellar Megamedia, Zhong Ying Xing Mei Theater Circuit, Beijing New Film Union, Shenzhen Golden Shores Films, Guangzhou Sheng Shi Tu Hua Film Co. presentation of a Shenzhen Golden Shores Films production. (International sales: Shenzhen Golden Shores, Shenzhen.) Produced by Kiefer Liu. Executive producers, Cao Hong, Wei Jian, Liu Xiaoguang, Wang Haiping, Zheng Chiyuan. Directed by Kiefer Liu. Screenplay, Wang Hailin, Liu; story, Pablo Berger.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Andy Lam; editor, T.K. Tang; music, Funky, Zhao Zhao; production designer, Daniel Fu; costume designer, Maggie Wang; sound (Dolby), Yin Jie; visual effects, Shanghai Magicube Film Visual Effects Studio; assistant director, Zhao Xiang. Reviewed at Shanghai Film Festival (Panorama), June 15, 2008. Running time: 102 MIN.

Cast: With: Guo Tao, Annie Liu, Sam Lee, Cheung Tai-ming, Gordon Lam, Yao Chen, Huang Bo, Xie Na, Ying Zhuang, Li Qi, Wang Xun, Nie Ben, Xiao Jian, Ling Xiao-su, Chen Chen, Jo Yang. (Mandarin, Shanghainese, Cantonese dialogue)

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