REVIEW / ACTION-COMEDY
HOLLYWOOD ADVENTURES (NC16)
115 minutes/Opens tomorrow/4/5 stars
The story: After getting dumped over the telephone, the straight-laced Xiaoming (Huang Xiaoming) sets off for Los Angeles to win back his ex-girlfriend. He ends up on a Hollywood Adventures honeymoon package, together with the insistently chatty Dawei (Tong Dawei) on a tour led by the resourceful Wei Wei (Vicki Zhao Wei). Something is not quite right, though, and Xiaoming is soon in the thick of his own adventures involving weaselly criminal Manny (Sung Kang), Hollywood star Gary Buesheimer (Rhys Coiro) and the trafficking of rhino horn powder.
Self-awareness in a movie can be sharp and witty, like in the Scream horror-comedy series (1996-2011). It could also land with a thud, like in Last Action Hero (1993).
Happily, director Timothy Kendall makes it work in his energetic debut feature, which winks at cliched Chinese perceptions of Los Angeles and American pop culture while gleefully playing into the idea that anything can happen in Hollywood.
In the process, he also pokes fun at La-La land with its petty egos, oversized mansions and inflated sense of self-importance.
His able top-drawer cast of Chinese cinema stars is owed thanks.
Tong, in particular, demonstrates a natural flair for comedy as the earnestly droll Dawei, a walking encyclopaedia of all things movie- related who comments on the action and on his own role as a sidekick.
When the craziness starts piling up - he witnesses costumed mascots in a gunfight, shares a drive into the desert with a pig, stumbles into a redneck bar - he accepts it all with equanimity.
After all, anything can happen in Hollywood.
Even as the proceedings get increasingly outlandish, the film is anchored in the relationships among the characters, portrayed by the leads who have an easy camaraderie most likely as a result of their shared history.
Huang and Tong were in the drama American Dreams In China (2013). Tong and Zhao played a couple in the television series Tiger Mom (2015) and Zhao and Huang were classmates at the Beijing Film Academy.
Adding to the revelry are cameos and supporting turns from recognisable actors such as Sung who plays street racer Han in The Fast And The Furious franchise, and a deadpan Robert Patrick gamely takes a dig at his T-1000 villain in Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991).
Throw in car stunts, a superhero segue and a fabulous pink party, and you wind up with a madcap adventure that is quite a ride.