As can be guessed from its title, “Love in Space” is a romantic comedy, which sees directors Tony Chan and Wing Shya following up their surprise 2010 hit “Hot Summer Days” with more of the same. Boasting Fruit Chan back on board as producer and a glossy budget courtesy of Hollywood studio 20th Century Fox, the film is headlined by a trio of top female stars in Rene Liu (“Run Papa Run”), Guey Lun Mei (“Taipei Exchanges”) and Angelababy (“Hot Summer Days”), with high profile male support from Eason Chan (“Lover’s Discourse”), Aaron Kwok (“Love For Life”) and Jing Boran (“Hot Summer Days”).
The film follows the amusing romantic adventures and misadventures of the three Huang sisters and their mother in a series of intertwining subplots. Lily (Guey Lun Mei) is a budding artist in Sydney whose love life is complicated by her obsessive-compulsive fear of germs – put to the test when she meets charming garbage collector Johnny (Eason Chan). Meanwhile in Beijing, younger sister Peony (Angelababy) is determined to shed her ‘worst actress’ label by researching her next role as a café waitress through real life experience, falling for writer Wen Feng (Jing Boran) in the process. Finally, miles above the earth, Rose (Rene Liu) is on a space station with her ex Michael (Aaron Kwok), trying to figure out where they went wrong.
As with “Hot Summer Days”, Tony Chan and Wing Shya clearly have in mind the modest ambition of an all star romantic comedy ensemble piece, and on those terms “Love in Space” certainly succeeds. Thanks to a decent script and neat sense of structure and flow, the various stories and subplots fit together comfortably, and the tactic of packing in popular actresses and actors works well. All of the headliners are on good form, playing basically likeable quirky characters, and this goes some way to engaging the viewer and helping to hold the interest. Crucially, there’s a winning sense of chemistry to most of the pairings, with Eason Chan and Guey Lun Mei, and Angelababy and Jing Boran making for cute, and at least semi-believable couples. This does make the film pretty romantic, and though it’d be a stretch to actually call it moving, it’s heart-warming enough without ever being too melodramatic.
The film is bright and breezy throughout, and though the script makes a few stabs at seriousness, it really doesn’t have a cynical or negative bone in its sweetly saccharine body. Chan and Shya keep things moving along at a bright and breezy pace, and though inherently predictable and determinedly risk free the film hits all the right notes and delivers in fine fashion, boosted by a pleasant variety of different settings in different countries. There’s a definite and wise lack of pretension on display, mixed with a gentle, never too wacky sense of humour, which makes for a handful of decent, unforced laughs along the way.
Strangely, the film’s only real problem lies in its space subplot. Although they do win the film a few points for living up to its title, the sequences in space are quite literally disconnected from the rest of the narrative, despite efforts to make it seem otherwise by occasionally panning the camera up to the sky. While both Rene Liu and Aaron Kwok are fine, they are saddled with the least interesting characters of the film, in part because the viewer never really finds out much about them, or indeed about their mission, which rather bizarrely seems to have something to do with trying to grow thorn-free roses. No matter how many times the directors throw in a quick blast of The Blue Danube Waltz (presumably as a reference to Kubrick’s classic “2001: a Space Odyssey”) the space scenes never feel like much more than an add-on.
Still, this isn’t enough to derail the film, and “Love in Space” is easily one of the more palatable Chinese romantic comedies of late. Fun and fluffy without overplaying its hand and benefitting from an appealing cast of attractive stars, it’s sure to be enjoyed by fans of the form, and stands as another perfectly acceptable date movie and solid piece of commercial cinema from directors Tony Chan and Wing Shya.
Tony Chan, Wing Shya (director) / Lucretia Ho, Tony Chan (screenplay)
CAST: Rene Liu