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Awesome: 11.11%
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Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 3 user ratings

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Goodbye Mr. Loser
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by Jay Seaver

"Zany enough to be funny even if you don't know the songs."
4 stars

As near as I can tell, no character is played by multiple actors in "Goodbye Mr. Loser" despite the bulk of the movie showing these middle-aged characters back in high school, and the fact that the filmmakers figure that this is a potential positive gives you a hint of what wavelength the movie is on. It's a screwy comic fantasy, and only falters when it starts to get sentimental.

It starts with Xia Luo (Shen Teng) coming to the wedding of his still-gorgeous high-school crush Qiu Ya (Wang Zhi) with the intent of looking so cool that she'll wonder what she missed out on before he disappears again, only for it to go quite differently, as his wife Ma Dongmei (Ma Li) winds up chasing him with a knife. He ducks into the bathroom, but when he comes back out, it's 1997 and he's in his old high school. And while he's still causing commotion, he's going to make sure things are different as he pursues Qiu Ya and records every hit Mando-pop song of the last eighteen years before the original artists.

This being a large plot point should serve as a reminder to any non-Chinese audiences watching the movie that this sort of "nostalgia comedy" can be a lot less funny without the proper frame of reference; I've got no idea whether the crowd was laughing with familiarity whenever a song came on the soundtrack or if filmmakers Yan Fei & Peng Da-mo were doing something particularly subversive by using those particular songs. The subtitles are pretty funny on some, though, making me wonder if they are original for the film. Fortunately, the film is not particularly close to reliant on knowledge of the pop culture of 1997 China; being back in high school and knowing the future is more important than the specifics of the past.

The stuff that Xia Luo gets up in the past, fortunately, are pretty damn funny. It's hilarious in large part because the filmmakers seem fairly indifferent to "good taste" as a concept; not only does Xia Luo act tremendously selfishly, but the entire cast of characters is kind of ridiculous, from broad slapstick to jokes about how dumb one guy is while another is effete. The jokes are often tacky as hell - folks get hit with bricks, for crying out loud! - but there are a lot of them, and they are executed with seeming abandon but excellent timing and great precision. They go for a larger-than-life sort of absurdity, and the fact that very few look like actual teenagers plays into the silliness.

That cast is pretty much unknown in terms of having appeared in movies that have crossed the Pacific, although Shen Teng and Ma Li are apparently popular comedians; I wouldn't be surprised if they were part of the original stage production. They are both tremendously funny, especially Ma, who is zany as the athletic, deluded Dongmei of 1997 but setting up the more sensible one of the present as well. Shen gets more screen time, and mugs shamelessly while also showing off some fine dry humor. The supporting cast is strong as well, with Allen Ai selling his dumb-guy character well enough to steal every scene he's in and Yin Zheng right up there as the brown-nosing current boyfriend of Qiu Ya. Wang Zhi doesn't get quite so much funny material as the school beauty, but she does a pretty good job of making the privileged, timid girl far less bland than she might be.

Almost too well, at times; Qiu Ya is such a shrinking violet at first that Xia Luo's aggressive attention becomes more uncomfortable than funny, and she doesn't get many chances to be entertainingly bitchy to offset it. More importantly, the film takes a somewhat unearned turn toward the sentimental later on, both in terms of a really dark turn and seeming to fast-forward to a situation where we've got to believe a status quo we've got no investment in is more than it was presented as. It winks a little bit afterward, hinting that the filmmakers know they're pushing cliches hard, but it's got to be better than the anything-goes comedy it's pushing aside to work.

There's a lot of good jokes in "Goodbye Mr. Loser", though, even if it eventually does want Xia Luo to Learn A Valuable Lesson. On the way, though, it's very funny, even to those of us who must accept that we are going to have a significant number of the jokes just fly past us. For it's main Chinese audience, it must be a real blast.

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originally posted: 10/11/15 07:02:29
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User Comments

3/06/16 Michele Ow A blast! 5 stars
10/20/15 Brad Ashlock hiw is dying of AIDS funny or appropriate to a comedy? 4 stars
10/12/15 Dave How To See It In Monterey CA, 93940 4 stars
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Directed by
  Da-Mo Peng
  Fei Yan

Written by
  Da-Mo Peng
  Fei Yan

  Teng Shen
  Li Ma
  Zhi Wang
  Allen Ai
  Zheng Yi

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