Sadness overcomes comedy in the luxuriant romancer “If You Are the One II,” the sequel to the boffo 2008 Sino hit that toplined mainlander Ge You and Taiwan’s Shu Qi as a wary and warring couple. Well played but occasionally misjudged, pic marks director Feng Xiaogang’s second 2010 release (following “Aftershock”), and with Ge and Shu again aboard, “One II” set Chinese B.O. records on its Dec. 22 bow. Buttressed by a wide international release targeting territories as far-flung as Oz and the U.S., pic looks set to easily surpass the roughly 340 million yuan ($51.3 million) earned by its predecessor.
Independently wealthy Qin Fen (Ge) is on bended knee before luscious airline stewardess Liang Xiaoxiao (Shu) high upon the Great Wall of China, kicking off the latest stage of the skittish courtship initiated in Feng’s earlier film. Liang is still hesitant, so Qin suggests they start a trial marriage at his opulent eco-tourism treehouse in coastal Sanya in Hainin province the next time she jets into town. But even before the trial period begins, the pair start devising ways to test each other for lack of commitment and to establish psychological dominance. A series of comical misunderstandings keep the couple from consummating their relationship, and the able-bodied Qin ends up confining himself to a wheelchair to try the limits of Liang’s love.
In classic romantic comedy style, another couple, Mango (Chen Yao) and Xiangshan (Sun Honglei, “The Road Home”) serves as the primary couple’s advisors. A hilarious setpiece sees Qin play host to Mango and Xiangshan’s classy divorce ceremony, which parodies the hallmarks of a Western wedding. When, midfilm, Qin and Liang’s romance hits the skids, the divorcees have plenty of good advice for the “never-weds.”
The supporting characters become more central as the plot moves into an increasingly downbeat mode in its final third. Xiangshan serves as the mouthpiece for a wistful speech (which sounds like a monologue Feng couldn’t work into “Aftershock”) on China’s lost tradition of etiquette and dignity as a result of communism’s heyday.
Feng certainly gets his “life’s too short for fussing and fighting” message across as he smoothly moves from comedy to melodrama, but the extended weepy finale takes too long to play out. Pic also includes some directorial missteps, notably the mistiming of Luan Shu’s upbeat music at a climactic moment, undercutting what could have been Ge’s finest thesping moment.
The always watchable central actors give a convincing portrait of a couple whose intimacy has given way to weariness, though supporting actor Sun outshines them both as his character comes to the fore.
Final remarks by Zhang Hanyu’s sporadic voiceover teases with the possibility of future sequels.
Lou Yu’s lensing takes full advantage of the protags’ resort-style life, no doubt to the delight of the Beijing Tourism Administration, which contributed funds. Other tech credits are Hollywood-slick.