What Women Want -- Film Review

Asian box office luminaries Andy Lau and Gong Li add some spice to this shiny but uninspired Chinese remake.

Slick, mainstream escapism that does not veer far from the original 2000 Mel Gibson/Helen Hunt film.

They don't come more westernized than What Women Want, a straight-ahead Chinese remake of the 2000 Hollywood rom-com of the same name.

Adapted and directed by Chen Daming, the high-gloss feature proves no less commercially driven than the Mel Gibson-Helen Hunt version, from the upscale backdrops to the haute couture to some blatant product placement.

But while it doesn't quite replicate the breezy bounce of the Nancy Myers-directed original, audiences will unlikely notice given the easy chemistry between its amiable leads -- box office royalty Andy Lau and the ever-radiant Gong Li.

Opening day-and-date with China, where Feb. 3 coincides with the start of New Year's festivities, the picture should score with female-skewing Asian-Americans in the market for slick, mainstream escapism.

Chen's Mandarin-language script adaptation adheres closely to the Josh Goldsmith-Cathy Yuspa original in its depiction of an arrogant, womanizing ad executive (Lau) who, through a freak accident, is left with the ability to read women's thoughts.

He uses his new-found skill to his professional advantage with the arrival of his aggressive rival (Li), stealing her creative campaign ideas, but ultimately she, in turn, steals his heart.

Although a number of sequences fall flat and the transitions between others aren't always smoothly executed, the director finds ample distraction by tapping into the newly cosmopolitan scope of China's burgeoning economy.

In one of the more amusing scenes, several characters bump into each other at a trendy Japanese restaurant, with one of the diners remarking that she didn't realize Mongolian lamb was a Japanese dish.

Aside from the spirited give-and-take of its photogenic leads, the film boosts the glam factor with Zhuoyi Li's gleaming art direction and costume designer Yikai Li's impeccably chic wardrobe selections.

However dazzling, they don't quite manage to divert the eye away from those imposing, canary-yellow boxes of Lipton Tea and oversized branded tea cups that have a way of sneaking into scenes.

The product placement supervisor may be a more recent addition to Chinese film production crews, but here's hoping the evident rise in conspicuous consumption doesn't mean there's a remake of Confessions of a Shopaholic coming down the pipeline.

Opens: Thursday, February 3 (China Lion Film Distribution)
Production companies: Bona Entertainment, Beijing Bona Film and Cultural Communication Co., Focus Films, Emperor Motion Picture Ltd., CJ Entertainment, China Film Group Corp.
Cast: Andy Lau, Gong Li, Yuan Li
Director: Chen Daming
Screenwriters: Josh Goldsmith & Cathy Yuspa, Chen Daming
Executive producers: Yu Dong, Jeffrey Chan, Andy Lau, Albert Yeung, Katharine Kim, Han Sanping, Chris Liu
Producers: Yu Dong, Dede Nickerson, Chen Daming, Jeffrey Chan
Director of photography: Max Wang
Production designer: Li Zhuoyi
Music: Christopher O'Young
Costume designer: Li Yikai
Editor: Nelson Quan
No rating, 100 minutes