With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013
With Dada Chen at NYAFF 2013

Friday, January 16, 2015

20 ONCE AGAIN opens today

CJ E&M America
 20 Once Again
Directed by Leste Chen
China, 2015, 125 minutes

Romantic comedy stars K-pop chart topper Luhan in his first big screen
debut alongside Huabiao Award winning actress Yang Zi Shan

20 Once Again is a delightful romantic comedy about a grandmother who miraculously regains her youth and has the opportunity she originally missed to become a famous singer, as well as to find true love. The film makes its U.S. and Canada debut in major market cinemas today, Friday, January 16, 2015. Check your local listings or visit www.cj-entertainment.co.

Shen Mengjun, center) with her grandson, son, daughter-in-law and grnaddaught

Shen Mengjun (Grace Guei) is a seventy-year-old grandmother who was widowed when her only child, Guobin, was just over a year old. She lives with him, his wife Yangqin, and their two children, daughter Xiang Xinran and son Qianjin (Luhan, former member of the K-pop group EXO), who's a guitarist.

Shen is partial to the men in her life: her son, her grandson, and Uncle Li Dahai, who worked for her family when he was a teenager and who has always loved her. The women in Shen's life, on the other hand, suffer from the harridan aspect of her personality. One victim is Chen Yumei, one of the women with whom Shen plays mahjong. Closer to home, Shen berates her granddaughter for what she eats and how she dresses. But her most vituperative comments are for her daughter-in-law, whom Shen seems to feel can do nothing right.

When the stress puts Yangqin in the hospital, Shen's son (who happens to be a college professor who specializes in social issues of the elderly!) reluctantly decides to put his mother in a nursing home so his wife can recuperate. Overhearing these plans, Shen goes for a walk. She comes across a store that she'd somehow never noticed before, the Photography Studio of Youth, and has her funeral picture taken so her family will have something to remember her by.

The rejuvenated Shen, now calling herself Meng Lijun (Yang Zi Shan)

 When she leaves, however, Shen (now played by Yang Zi Shan) has become the twenty-year-old she once was. She adopts the name Meng Lijun. Antics ensue as do romantic rivalries. She becomes the singer for her grandson's band, and he -- having no idea who she really is -- begins to fall for her. So does Mr. Tan, a talent scout. And, of course, Uncle Li, once he realizes who she is, has his feelings stirred.

20 Once Again is pretty much a Chinese language remake of the South Korean film Miss Granny (2013), which was also presented by CJ Entertainment. In fact, after Shen has regained her youth, she comes to a bus stop and there's an image of actress SHIM Eun-Kyung from Miss Granny behind the bench Shen is sitting on! (Read my January 2014 review of Miss Granny here.)

Shen's grandson Qianjin (Luhan)

But don't let the word "remake" dissuade you. 20 Once Again is a terrific comedy in its own right. All the acting is wonderful, especially Grace Guei and Yang Zi Shan. It also has some nice touches of its own. For example, there's one shot of Meng and the three male members of the band walking across a street that's an obvious wink at the cover of the Beatles' Abbey Road album cover.

And so, like Miss Granny, I'm giving 20 Once Again a 3.5 out of 4 star rating; very highly recommended.

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