Actress Zhang Ziyi has worked with the most esteemed art-film directors from China and its environs, including Wong Kar-wai (“The Grandmaster,” now in theaters), Zhang Yimou (“Hero”) and Ang Lee (“Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). But her latest vehicle, “My Lucky Star,” is more along the lines of her Hollywood debut, “Rush Hour 2.”
A stylish, if silly, action-comedy, “My Lucky Star” features Zhang’s second turn as Sophie, a Beijing wallflower who channels her romantic fantasies into the comic books she writes and draws. The movie is actually a prequel to 2009’s “Sophie’s Revenge,” but there’s little overlap between the two, save for the main character and an Asian-centered take on globalization.
This time, Sophie is drawing herself as a character in a spy adventure, while in real life she works at a travel agency. Gorgeous but klutzy, she’s a bit like the heroine of “Populaire,” the new French comedy. The two movies include near-identical scenes in which the protagonist forgets to latch her suitcase and thus dumps her dainties for the male lead to see.
Sophie wins a trip to Singapore, where she encounters suave, handsome David (“Lust, Caution’s” Wang Leehom). Not only does he look just like the hero Sophie drew in her latest comic, but he’s also a secret agent. (For whom is not clear, but his boss seems to be American.) Sophie pursues the spy, consulting her more seasoned pals by cellphone for seduction advice.
The plot deserves as much attention as the six credited scripters gave to it, which is clearly very little. David’s assignment is to retrieve the stolen Lucky Star, a huge diamond that can be “weaponized.” By accident, Sophie becomes integral to his mission. But she’s less concerned with saving the world than in discerning whether David is in love with the tale’s female archvillain.
Bringing Sophie’s comics to life, the movie interjects drawings and animated sequences. The camera spins excitedly, and the editing is brisk. Split-screen compositions evoke the 1960s, as do Sophie’s pop-art ensembles, which include a lilac wig with matching lipstick. This girlie romp is less about martial arts and espionage than stuffed animals and dress-up.
Zhang is one of the producers of the Sophie movies, which splash in the international talent pool. “Sophie’s Revenge” featured a Korean heartthrob and K-pop songs; “My Lucky Star” is the first Chinese film helmed by an American woman, television veteran Dennie Gordon.
The movie is playfully modeled on James Bond flicks, but where those films make a point of visiting several continents, Sophie’s adventure globe-trots only from Beijing to Singapore, Hong Kong and Macau. (At least the latter has a casino that simulates Venice.)
While Zhang is one of China’s greatest international stars, “My Lucky Star” is utterly provincial. It’s for Chinese viewers, plus those few westerners who revel in Asian hyper-cuteness.
Jenkins is a freelance writer.
Unrated. At Regal Gallery Place and AMC Loews Rio. Contains mild violence and milder sexuality.
In Mandarin and English with subtitles.