The rom-com genre is one of the most difficult for which writers can do their job. That’s because ever since Hollywood’s golden era, romantic comedies have been a staple for audiences. It would seem that every story possible has been written in the decades since. So the question is how does one write a story that is original and enjoyable at the same time? Writer/Director Daniel Hsia has answered that question in the script for Shanghai Calling. Somehow, he has managed to craft a story in Shanghai Calling that perfectly balances its central rom-com storyline with comedy that would seem more fitting for a stand-up comedy routine than a rom-com. Yet it works perfectly within the context of this story. In the end, the balance of the two elements makes Shanghai Calling a surprisingly enjoyable movie both for couples and anyone looking for a good laugh.
Shanghai Calling is a fitting watch for any couple looking for a good date night movie. That’s thanks to the work of writer/director Daniel Hsia. The central rom-com storyline centered on a person finding love in a foreign land is in itself not entirely original. It’s been done. What Hsia has done is he has taken that classic storyline and updated it for the 21st Century. It sees a young up-and-coming lawyer named Sam (Daniel Henney—X-Men Origins: Wolverine) sent to China in order to work with a client that is trying to get his supposedly innovative new phone on the market. The client in question is one Marcus Groff (Alan Ruck—Ferris Bueller’s Day Off). Hsia throws in just enough plot twists in this central storyline to keep audiences engaged from start to finish. Along the way, Hsia throws in an interesting romance element for couples that is just as certain to keep them watching. As he is dealing with the issues caused by Groff and his own bosses, Sam meets two young women. At first glance, the use of two women and one man would lead to the cliché love triangle subplot used in so many rom-coms before this one. But as noted already, Hsia ignores the standards used so many times before in crafting his story. This is just one of those clichés that Hsia ignores. Sam does end up falling in love with one of the two women, which leads in the story’s final minutes to another rom-com cliché being ignored in the standard boy gets girl back airport scene. This is an element that far too many writers have used through the ages in their rom-coms. Hsia completely avoids the cliché in question although he does hint at it. That hinting at the classic element is as close as he comes to said element, though. And for that, Hsia again deserves even more credit.
Daniel Hsia deserves more than his share of credit for crafting a story that while it is a rom-com, avoids so many pitfalls of nearly every rom-com that has come before his. It makes this story bearable for even those that aren’t generally fans of said genre. If the fact that he avoids those pitfalls isn’t enough to convince viewers of its worth, then the story’s cultural comedy is far more than enough. The comic element tied into the story feels like material pulled right from a stand-up comedy act. The cultural joke of Sam being of Chinese descent yet unable to speak Chinese is in itself funny. His inability to speak the nation’s language leads to more than one hilarious moment at which audiences will find themselves laughing uproariously. There are also plenty of other cultural jokes that audiences will love, including one told as Sam mistakes a cab driver for a monk. The cab driver’s reaction to Sam’s mistake is one of the funniest of the jokes told throughout the movie. The joke in question won’t be spoiled here. Those that have yet to see this movie will appreciate it more when they hear it for themselves. It’s just one more of so many incredibly funny moments that help drive the story and make it that much more entertaining and worth the watch.
Daniel Hsia has done an extraordinary job in combining the comic element and updated rom-com storyline in Shanghai Calling. There is one more element for which he deserves credit in looking at the story’s overall writing. That one last element is the fact that for all of its comic greatness, it would have been so easy for Hsia to take the easy road and incorporate a journey of self-discovery for Sam so to speak. He does this somewhat in having Sam learn what’s really going on with his bosses and with his client. But that is roughly the extent of that self-discovery. Just as Hsia expertly avoids so many rom-com clichés, he also keeps the related dramatic elements to an extreme minimum, as evidenced here. It’s one more victory for a movie that while it is an indie flick, is just as entertaining as any major studio’s rom-com past or present. It will be available on DVD Tuesday, September 17th. It can be ordered online direct from the Anchor Bay Entertainment website at http://www.anchorbayent.com/detail.aspx?ProjectId=1f407439-18d8-e211-8257-d4ae527c3b65. More information on this and other releases from Anchor Bay Entertainment is available online at http://www.anchorbayentertainment.com and http://www.facebook.com/AnchorBay and http://twitter.com/Anchor_Bay.
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