Wednesday, July 2, 2003

Long Life, Happiness and Prosperity

Posted By on Wed, Jul 2, 2003 at 12:00 AM

With this film and 1994’s Double Happiness, writer-director Mina Shum seems to have cornered the market on indie-flavored movies about Chinese-Canadians. Her approach is anecdotal; her mode is the leisurely paced character study, and her tone is fond amusement. In the earlier film, her central character was a young actress (Sandra Oh) who had to deal with a difficult career and the urging of her more traditionally minded parents to get married and start a family. In this current Happiness, Oh returns as Kin, a single mother whose precocious daughter, Mindy (Valerie Tian), is constantly casting ancient Chinese spells with the aim of getting her mother re-hitched.

At first, the movie seems to be replicating Double Happiness’ low-keyed naturalism, but then it slips into fantasy as it turns out that Mindy’s spells actually work, even on people who don’t necessarily believe in spells and so don’t have the excuse of unconscious collaboration. The comic complications arise from the fact that Mindy is a sloppy spell-caster, often hitting the wrong target. This is mildly amusing when she inadvertently causes the local butcher, Bing Lai (Ric Young), to win $250,000 in the lottery, but it just becomes silly when the love potion she intends for her mother’s boss, Alvin, is drunk instead by Bing’s crusty boss, Nelson. Soon Nelson is pursuing Kin with bad karaoke, while Alvin, who drank the potion at the wrong moment, is pursuing Nelson.

More interesting are the subplots that involve two men who suffer from a too-well-developed sense of pride and its dark attendant, shame. Bing the butcher is estranged from his father, who still lives in China and who considers his son a failure. He’s kept this disgraceful fact from his family, pretending to call him and write him letters. Now that he’s won the lottery, the family is urging him to bring the old man over to Canada for a visit. The other crisis concerns a security worker named Shuck (Chang Tseng), who’s been fired only a few years before his retirement, but who still leaves for work everyday, unable to tell his wife he’s jobless. These are well-done and touching stories, but they don’t quite compensate for the forced humor of little Mindy and her dumb magic spells.

 

Showing exclusively at the Detroit Film Theatre (inside the DIA, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit), Monday, July 7, at 7 p.m. This “Cinema Canada” free screening is co-sponsored by the DFT and the Canadian Consulate General.

Richard C. Walls writes about film for Metro Times. E-mail letters@metrotimes.com.

Tags:

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Detroit Metro Times. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Detroit Metro Times, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at letters@metrotimes.com.

Support Local Journalism.
Join the Detroit Metro Times Press Club

Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.

Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.

Join the Metro Times Press Club for as little as $5 a month.

More by Richard C. Walls

Most Popular

Read the Digital Print Issue

July 28, 2021

View more issues

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Best Things to Do In Detroit

© 2021 Detroit Metro Times - Contact Us

Website powered by Foundation