Story: Fat (Richie Ren) is the boss of an investment company, and finally wants to marry his long-term girlfriend
Rachael (Kate Tsui), the daughter of a lawyer. However, Rachael is a very modern thinking woman, who even has pole
dancing as a hobby. Thus, Fat knows that there is no chance that his conservative father Fok (Yuen Wah) will accept
his girlfriend, let
alone approve their marriage. Therefore, Fat and Rachael come up with a plan. They hire the rather shy girl Joe
(Fan Bingbing), who is supposed to introduce herself to Fat's parents as his new girlfriend. During her stay at the
home of Fat's parents she is told to behave as open-minded an westernized in her thinking as possible, so that the
tradition-focused family shows their disapproval towards their son's girlfriend. The plan is that Fat then breaks up with
Joe after this, whereas Joe gets a good amount of money for her work. Afterwards Fat can introduce his new girlfriend
Rachael, who will seem a lot more conservative compared to Joe.
Joe gets some training in how to behave as a modern, open-minded woman, and eventually, along with Fat, pays a visit to Fat's parents.
In the following days Joe turns the head of every family member and things get messy at the tradion-centered home. Still, even though she successfully tries to behave as off-beat as possible, martial arts obsessed Fok starts to like his future daughter-in-law... As it is the case with the rest of the family, too...
Review: "Contract Lover" is one of those trivial, colorful romantic comedies, the likes you get to see everywhere.
The jokes are somewhat cheap at times, at others however, they can also be quite amusing and make you laugh. This is
simply hit-or-miss humor. No question about it, it's really obvious that this movie was produced in a rush and aims
only at delivering commercial cinema for teenagers, without laying claim on any form of profoundness. This leads to the
fact that the plot itself is a derivation of what we have seen a hundred times before, already. An old, well-proven
formula, which guarantees for some easy money to be made. The reader of these lines undoubtedly wants to know, if there
is any reason to watch "Contract Lover", when there are already produced tons of such movie in South Korea, and at most
times even better ones? Even though that might not mean much...
The answer is simple. "Contract Lover" has been produced for Mainland China and therefore has its own special kind of humor. Which, however, isn't much different from Hong Kong slapstick stuff. Apart from that, the movie is a present to the fans of main leads Richie Ren and especially Fan Bingbing.
I'm still upset that I didn't watch the film in its original language, which is mandarin Chinese. Finally, I would have had a chance to test my Chinese skills, and then I just happened to see the cantonese dubbed version. This is because if you don't know that this is a film made for mainland China, then it will most likely elude you that the cantonese dubbed version isn't the original one, as the dubbing itself is almost flawless. English dubbing speakers should really learn a lesson from this.
But back to topic. Fans of Fan Bingbing ("A Chinese Tall Story", "Flash Point") will absolutely get their money's worth. At first, she might be the ugly duck with glasses, but this extremely cheap trick, which even doesn't deserve to be called as such, just hides the fact that she is a natural beauty, whose real charm only gets apparent after her "makeover". As an actress she can deliver the best performance in the movie, even though the script makes her character look rather antithetically. At the end we still don't know if we actually know her or don't.
Really impressive, although solely on a visual level, is Kate Tsui, who already had the opportunity to convincingly take on the main lead in "Eye in the Sky". In "Contract Lover" she makes every man's heart beat faster. She just knows how to sell her looks and how to turn every man's head.
Main lead Richie Ren ("Breaking News", "Exiled") on the other hand, is in no way convincing. He remains incredibly one-dimensional, which even leads to the problem, that the very obvious love story that inevitably has to unfold between him and Joe just doesn't work out and feels quite hackneyed. Generally spoken actor/director Alfred Cheung focuses too much on producing non-stop jokes, without caring much for the love story. The result is that we get to see a montage towards the end, where all the scenes between Fat and Joe are feautured, which is supposed to point out that a relationship evolved between the two. However, apart from the matter that this scene feels annoyingly contrived, it is also absolutely unconvincing! Why Fat eventually runs after his "new" girlfriend all of a sudden when she leaves after having done her job at his parent's house, and for what reasons Rachael just doesn't care that she has been outrivaled by Joe, are questions that beg an answer and don't get any.
At least there are some nice jokes. Most of them revolve around the cultural gap between Joe and her modern, westernized sexy behaviour and Fat's traditional family, which is almost shocked at the mere sight of Joe. Yet, after some time we realize that Fok actually begins to like the girl, which is the reason why he overlooks her many faux pas over and over again. None of Joe's attempts to draw the family's hatred upon her work out, and so it becomes pretty obvious where all of this gets steered to.
Martial Arts Star Yuen Wah ("Kung Fu Hustle", "Iceman Cometh") once again shows his humoristic talent. Especially the many allusions constitute the majority of the fun. For example: Fok happens to be a descendant of Huo Yuan Jia the founder of the Jingwu Sports (see "Fearless"), and the school he is fighting with over Martial Arts superiority has been built by no one else than Wong Fei Hong. A name many Kung Fu movie enthusiasts or Jet Li fans should be familiar with.
As stated before: The humor only seldomly hits the mark right away, it's also predictable and at times simply stupid. Still, this doesn't mean that the movie is boring. As a matter of fact, the film is quite entertaining as a comedy. That is if you don't expect anything extraordinary.
Unfortunately, "Contract Lover" also feels rather incoherent. The little thrown in side story pieces, e.g. revolving around gay westerner Alex, being played by Ian Powers, who delivers an overacted, yet likeable charismatic performance, who falls in love with one of Fok's student, and then has to prove his martial arts skills in a contest as Fok's representative against the rivalling school, are too loosely connected with the main story. Anyway, this doesn't really come as a surprise, as the script really wasn't anything the filmmakers put some of their effort into to begin with.
"Contract Lover" has many flaws and really can't be called a good movie. However, sometimes you just may want to be amused by a simple happy-life comedy, and that's where Cheung's film can actually score some points. Even though not the whole way through. The love story isn't convincing, the humor isn't either all of the time, but you can still have some decent fun with this flick. Just don't expect anything more than commercial and insignificant cinema. This is a movie for all those, who simply want to relax after a hard day of work and just want to watch some entertaining nonsense. Fans of the stars also might want to take a look.