There is nothing intrinsically vicious about a tearjerker movie, and going to the movies for a good cry has a long and distinguished tradition. I Wish (奇妙的旅程), the new celebrity vehicle featuring TV host Blackie (陳建州) and model Cheryl Yang (楊謹華) sets out to move its audience to tears, but unfortunately, instead of tugging at the heart strings, it launches into an assault on the tear ducts that flagrantly disregards all sense of good taste and common decency. It's an act of emotional battery that has all the subtlety of a blow to the head from a blunt instrument.
The plot is not without potential. Blackie (陳建州) plays Lee Bing, a gifted music student who has become a bitter and emotionally stunted grown-up who scraps a living singing in pubs. One day, he finds a child at his door who claims to be his son by his estranged wife Qi Li (Cheryl Yang, 楊謹華). The kid leads him on a journey of self-discovery that involves a deathbed wish (hence the title) and a little girl struggling with terminal leukemia. Without giving away the plot twist that wrings a few more tears from the audience, there are shades of Ghosts, Sixth Sense and the host of movies about innocent childhood redeeming the misdirected lives of grown-ups.
Blackie's narrow range of emotional expression (mostly he simply looks constipated) in a film that tries to show the nuances of suffering is the first strike against I Wish. Wang Cheng-wei (汪政緯), who has also come of age through TV variety shows, is cute as the child of the story, but heavy-handed cuteness wears down audiences' patience. Strike two. A deathbed scene with Yang leaning forward while wearing a low-cut V-neck was just the most heinous instance of director Hsu Guo-jhih's (徐國誌) lack of taste. Strike three. An intrusive musical score that felt the need to underline every emotional moment. Strike four. A Sunday-school theme of the wish-fulfilling properties of a Christian god was seriously annoying, and made the film, packed with a young generation of TV personalities, strangely dated and preachy. Strike five ... wait. You only get three strikes.
I Wish (奇妙的旅程)
DIRECTED BY: Hsu Guo-jhih (徐國誌)
STARRING: Blackie (張嘉容) as Lee Bing, Kuan Yuan-fen (官苑芬) as Patty, Cheryl Yang (楊謹華) as Qi Li, Wang Cheng-wei (汪政緯) as the child
Language: In Mandarin, with Chinese and English subtitles
RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes
TAIWAN RELEASE: Today
I Wish is a commendable effort of Taiwan's film industry to break out of the art house and establish a relationship with the mainstream movie-going public. Leveraging the appeal of well-known TV personalities, and linking with variety show Blackie's Teenage Club (我愛黑澀會) and the talent show One Million Star (超級星光大道), is a device of proven worth, distasteful as it may be. It is unfortunate that ham-fisted direction and workaday acting undermines any serious cinematic pretensions and the whole thing comes off rather like an extended public service advertisement for loving thy neighbor.