What Women Want

Asian superstars Gong Li and Andy Lau spark together, but the script rarely produces fireworks in "What Women Want," a straightforward remake of Paramount's 2000 money-spinner.

With: Andy Lau, Gong Li, Li Chengru, Yuan Li, Russell Wong, Hu Jing, Wang Deshun, Kelly Hu. (Mandarin, English dialogue)

Asian superstars Gong Li and Andy Lau spark together, but the script rarely produces fireworks in “What Women Want,” a straightforward remake of Paramount’s 2000 money-spinner. What promises to be a fizzy Chinese battle-of-the-sexes farce is let down by too few zingers and a too-long running time. But the premise of a chauvinist suddenly being able to read women’s minds remains irresistible, and female auds are likely to turn this into a substantial mainland hit. Released in most major territories Feb. 3 to coincide with Chinese New Year, pic looks set for more modest returns on just 20 North American screens.

Sticking to the major points of Josh Goldsmith and Cathy Yuspa’s original script, the story here centers on Sun Zigang (Lau), a divorced advertising exec who’s surrounded by fawning office girls and swaggers around Beijing like he’s God’s gift to women. Expecting to be promoted by CEO Dong (Li Chengru), Sun is thrown for an ego-bruising loop when the job goes instead to Li Yilong (Gong), a star creative recruited to remedy the firm’s failing ability to connect with modern female consumers.

Pic plays best immediately following a freak electrical accident that leaves Su with the ability to hear women’s thoughts. Horrified at first to know exactly what his underlings and teenage daughter really think of him, Sun cunningly adapts and is soon saying the right thing to every woman who catches his roving eye. Most prominent is Yanni (Yuan Li, delightful), a coffee-shop worker whose appealing relationship with Sun is unconvincingly sacrificed at the midway point to make way for Li.

Without producing huge belly laughs, the midsection motors along pleasantly enough but comes unstuck when Sun starts to fall for Li after stealing her ideas, prompting Dong to wonder if she’s an experiment the company doesn’t need.

Looking terrific at 49 and 45, respectively, Lau and Gong have the right physical chemistry, but helmer Chen Daming’s screenplay doesn’t give them much verbal snap and crackle, and Sun’s eventual fessing up to Li is emotionally underwhelming. Though the narrative hardly stops dead in its tracks, the final furlongs still have the feel of a novelty that’s worn off.

Visuals are as glossy as the ads Sun and Li produce. Exteriors filmed around the striking Soho building in Beijing’s central business district, and interiors in chic bars, restaurants and retail outlets themselves rep a promo for the city’s modernization program.

Production designer Li Zhuoyi and costume designer Li Yikai have gone to town, packing high-end goods and clothing packed into every frame. Only hint of anything old-fashioned is Christopher O’Young’s score, which swings nicely from brassy big-band-style tunes to lush strings and piano in the latter stages.

Other technical work is spot-on. Chinese title translates as “I Know a Woman’s Heart.”

What Women Want


Production: A Beijing Polybona Film Distribution Co. release of a Bona Entertainment Co., Beijing Bona Film and Cultural Communication Co., Focus Films, Emperor Motion Pictures, CJ Entertainment, China Film Group Corp. presentation of a Bona Entertainment Co. production. (International sales: Distribution Workshop, Hong Kong.) Produced by Dede Nickerson, Chen Daming, Jeffrey Chan. Executive producers, Chan, Yu Dong, Andy Lau, Albert Yeung, Katharine Kim, Han Sanping, Chris Liu. Directed, written by Chen Daming, based on the motion picture "What Women Want," directed by Nancy Meyers, screenplay by Josh Goldsmith, Cathy Yuspa; story, Goldsmith, Yuspa, Diane Drake.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Max Wang; editor, Nelson Quan; music, Christopher O'Young; production designer, Li Zhuoyi; costume designer, Li Yikai; sound (Dolby Digital), An Wei; visual effects supervisor, Gene Shih; visual effects, Xing Xing Digital Corp.; line producers, Jiang Zhong, Shi Dongming; second unit camera, Takuji Murata. Reviewed at Event Cinemas George St., Sydney, Feb. 3, 2011. Running time: 116 MIN.

With: With: Andy Lau, Gong Li, Li Chengru, Yuan Li, Russell Wong, Hu Jing, Wang Deshun, Kelly Hu. (Mandarin, English dialogue)

More Film

  • Apollo 11

    Film News Roundup: 'Apollo 11' Re-Release Set for Moon Landing Anniversary

    In today’s film news roundup, Neon is re-releasing “Apollo 11”; “Sesame Street” gets moved; “Supersize Me 2” is set for Sept. 13; Will Ropp gets a “Silk Road” deal; and Apple makes a movie deal. RE-LAUNCH Neon will re-release Todd Douglas Miller’s documentary “Apollo 11” in theaters on July 20, the 50th anniversary of the [...]

  • Michael B. JordanAFI Awards Luncheon, Los

    Michael B. Jordan's 'Just Mercy' Moves to Awards Season Slot

    Michael B. Jordan’s upcoming legal drama “Just Mercy” has been shifted forward three weeks from Jan. 17 to Dec. 25 for an Oscar-qualifying theatrical release. “Just Mercy” is based on the case of Walter McMillan, an African-American death-row prisoner who was exonerated in 1993 after being convicted five years earlier for a 1986 murder in [...]

  • Harry Styles to Play Prince Eric

    Harry Styles in Talks to Play Prince Eric in Disney's 'Little Mermaid'

    Harry Styles is going under the sea. The former One Direction frontman is in early negotiations to play Prince Eric in Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Halle Bailey will portray the Ariel, a mermaid princess who dreams of being a human, while Melissa McCarthy is playing her evil aunt Ursula. “The Little Mermaid” [...]

  • Stuber Movie

    Disney Left With a Slate of Film Flops After Fox Deal

    Is Disney having buyer’s remorse? The studio would be forgiven if it were having some regrets after absorbing 20th Century Fox, the company that once generated big box office with the likes of “Avatar,” “Life of Pi,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody.” After “Dark Phoenix” bombed earlier this summer, Kumail Nanjiani and Dave Bautista’s action comedy “Stuber” [...]

  • Taika Waititi Returning to Direct 'Thor

    Taika Waititi to Direct Marvel's 'Thor 4'

    Taika Waititi is returning to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The filmmaker will write and direct the sequel to his 2017 blockbuster “Thor: Ragnarok.” Waititi’s take on the fourth “Thor” movie puts Warner Bros.’ long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely. However, the studio hopes that “Akira” can get resume production with Waititi at the helm once [...]

  • Akira

    'Akira' Production Put on Hold by Warner Bros.

    Warner Bros. has put its long-in-development “Akira” adaptation on hold indefinitely, sources tell Variety. Sources indicate that after a brief delay, the studio has pulled the plug on production indefinitely for the classic anime adaptation, which was set to begin later this fall. “Thor: Ragnarok” helmer Taika Waititi was on board to direct, and the [...]

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content