Relatively few days out of the year are synonymous with romance. It’s those horrible weeks of mid-summer when puppies finally hit their peak and butterflies threaten to land in your ear. If you’re unlucky, either that, or your partner’s constant frowning is enough to crack your heart. It’s the worst of times, the best of times, it’s damn terrible when it’s raining and splendour when it’s not.
Which is why it was unsettling to find out last week that top movie critics were pining for a film we’ve all been hearing so much about lately: “Tiger King 2,” starring Hao Zhen Xu and Xiao Tong. A sequel to The Tiger King, a Chinese movie that went on to be released in the United States in 2010, the movie received dreadful reviews for its lack of innovation and even worse for its main character’s sex appeal.
Its original backer, Legendary Entertainment, released “Tiger King 2” with considerable fanfare at a time when China is opening up its market to foreign producers — under the terms of the agreement, Warner Bros and Legendary can distribute and produce films in China for 20 years. In exchange, there are stipulations, and by very sheer chance, one of the stipulations is that the distribution of the film has to abide by a few China-specific rules.
“Tiger King 2” isn’t exactly a favorite of the Chinese government, either. (It’s received an 8% rating on Douban, a leading movie community website.) And although it’s about a 300-year-old king, the government is hesitant to release a self-referential pop-culture movie about this kingly character. As the film went into production, “there was a strong sense that audiences wouldn’t buy in,” one veteran Chinese film executive who wished to remain anonymous said.
Indeed, a screening of the movie last week, in which about 10 out of 15 full-time film critics passed on commenting on the film’s contents, was held in the most exclusive of cinemas, a room with just four chairs, behind closed doors. According to a correspondent from the local press, before the film was shown, this was the sound of the lamest Chinese joke since “Lost in Translation” was released in 2004: “Ever heard of the Tiger King who claimed he did not know the (shower) curtain?”
Instead of demonstrating brilliance, the film is about nothing more than a guy who claims to be a big cat. Cynics are baffled. Neither does it make a lot of sense. It’s not even about tigers. “Tiger King 2” is about a man in a tiger suit. Like in an episode of “Mermaids,” with a Chinese twist. This guy claims to be a man in a tiger suit, perhaps inspired by the straitjacket that leaps from famous Chinese author F.X. Toi’s novel “Bed of Jaguar.”
If “Tiger King 2” doesn’t make you laugh, get over it. And at least it’s a lot more fun than Finding Dory.