Failed attempt at body swopping

REVIEW / COMEDY ROMANCE

SUDDENLY 17 (PG)

107 minutes/Opens tomorrow/2/5 stars

The story: Liang (Ni Ni) has been with her boyfriend Mao (Wallace Huo) for 10 years, but the marriage proposal she has been expecting from him does not arrive. A box of chocolates she buys, for her to eat away her sorrows, turns out to have magical powers. Each piece of chocolate consumed returns her to her 17-year-old self, albeit in her 28-year-old body. The younger Liang then falls for a biker kid, Yan (Wang Ta-lu).

Body swopping is a common plot device in films that still works when it is done well. The massive success of this year's hit Japanese anime Your Name is a case in point.

Wallace Huo and Ni Ni play a couple still stuck in courtship after a decade.
Wallace Huo and Ni Ni play a couple still stuck in courtship after a decade. PHOTO: SHAW ORGANISATION

Director and co-writer Zhang Mo tries to give a twist to the tried-and- tested genre by swopping the same person at different ages into one body. Unfortunately, it does not work.

For one thing, the older and younger Liang seem like two different people rather than the same person at different ages. Big Liang is mousy and eager to please her man, while Little Liang brashly takes the initiative and is committed to her drawings and paintings.

Suddenly 17 ends up being an unfunny split personality movie - it is dour when one sees Big Liang and needlessly manic when Little Liang takes over because, well, youth rocks.

That both personalities are, in fact, Liang means that the antagonism between them feels forced - she is ultimately making things difficult for herself.

The idea here is that one's youthful self is more idealistic and authentic and worth holding on to. Unfortunately, the execution of it is incredibly literal - Big Liang tries to hold on to Little Liang in one scene.

Meanwhile, the underwritten male characters seem like poor motivators for Liang's actions.

Did Zhang pick the light-hearted romance comedy genre to steer clear of comparisons with her acclaimed film-making father Zhang Yimou's dramas?

The comparisons will be made regardless and, based on this work, they will not be favourable.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 07, 2016, with the headline 'Failed attempt at body swopping'. Print Edition | Subscribe