Back Dorm Boys pic debuts in China

'Ha! Ha! Ha!' features video game-style animation

SHANGHAI -- "Ha! Ha! Ha!" the third film outing starring two Chinese students made famous online by lip-syncing pop songs from their college dorm, opened across China on Tuesday.

Produced and directed by Luo Yan and starring Wei Wei and Huang Yixin -- aka the Back Dorm Boys -- the film features computer animation fashioned after some of the online video games that increasingly fill the leisure time of China's youths.

Luo, one of China's leading female filmmakers, is best known in the West for her 2001 film "Pavilion of Women," starring Willem Dafoe.

Wei and Huang became wildly popular in China in early 2006 for posting videos of themselves mouthing the songs of Justin Timberlake and others in front of a low-resolution Web camera in their spare quarters at the Guangzhou Arts Institute in south China.

"Ha! Ha! Ha!" is a farce about bumbling crooks, a kidnapped baby and the childless couple that receives him accidentally. It is reminiscent of the Coen brothers' "Raising Arizona."

At a preview Sunday, Luo, who cites the Coens and Guy Ritchie as influences, said she hopes her work, aimed at the generation now in its 20s, reflects today's China.

"It has aspects of traditional, modern and postmodern China as well as Western influences on China's youth like hip-hop," said Luo, who was born in western China's Xinjiang province and graduated from Boston University. "I expect this film to be successful in Asia, but I chose humor elements that are universal and will appeal to a certain audience worldwide."

A China subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Mei Ah Entertainment, the China Film Group and Yan's own Silver Dream Prods. funded the $1.8 million film. CFG is distributing in China and Mei Ah has the option for Asian distribution.

Luo said she plans to send "Ha! Ha! Ha!" to the international film festivals in Busan, South Korea, and Tokyo in the fall. Her upcoming plans include a film adaptation of the late American author Iris Chang's "Thread of the Silkworm" about NASA scientist Tsien Hsue-shen, who was denounced as a communist and deported to China.