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Xingfu shiguang (Happy Times) Review

By Shawn McKenzie 08/02/2002

Looking for a good “feel-good” foreign-language movie lately? Well, you’ve found one in Xingfu shiguang (Happy Times). The problem is the end isn’t so good.

Before I get into why the end isn’t so good (I won’t tell you what it is, just why it isn’t that good), I will tell you what the movie is about. It is the story of a man named Zhao (Zhao Benshan), a guy who feels he is reaching his golden years, so he is desperate to get married. He ends up becoming engaged to a big woman (Dong Lihua) who has a big son and a small, frail, blind stepdaughter named Wu Ying (Dong Jie.) He pretends to be a big shot hotel owner of a special bus that can give privacy to young couples (which he calls the Happy Times Hotel) in order to impress the woman. She demands that he give Wu Ying a job to get the girl out of her hair. When Zhao takes Wu Ying to the broken-down bus, he finds it being hauled away in order to “beautify the neighborhood.” He tells her that he is renovating and will get her a massaging job in another one of his hotels. When he brings her back, he finds out the woman has gotten rid of all of Wu Ying’s things and gave her son Wu Ying’s room. Zhao takes Wu Ying to his apartment and pretends that it is an employee room. Zhao sleeps in a condemned warehouse in the meantime. Along with is motley group of goofy friends (and former co-workers at the warehouse), they transform the warehouse into a makeshift massage parlor in order to fool the girl. They start out by paying her tips with their real money, but since they are unemployed, they can’t keep up the ruse for too long. While continuing to fool Wu Ying, Zhao grows to really care for the girl in a fatherly way (since her real father is in another town, trying to make enough money to buy his daughter a surgery to fix her eyes.) She starts to suspect something is fishy, but doesn’t really care, since Zhao and his friends have treated her much better than her awful stepmother.

I want to start off by saying that the movie is a sweet one. I wouldn’t call it a family film (even though it is only rated PG), but it will give you a smile, kind of like the R-rated English movie The Full Monty. I would highly recommend it for a good foreign movie experience.

Now for the bad ending that I mentioned earlier. Why did I not like it? Like I said, I won’t tell you how it ends, but I will tell you this: it doesn’t end. Huh? It leaves you hanging! You will walk out of the theater saying to yourself, “What happened to this character?” “What about the fate of that character?” It is very frustrating.

If you want to see a foreign “feel-good” movie and you can accept the fact that this movie will most likely not have a sequel to resolve all the questions brought up in the end, check out Xingfu shiguang (Happy Times). Maybe it is the culture of where it was made that leaves you hanging, so make up your own sequel in your head!

Ratings System:


Catch this movie at the theater if you can...

Wait until it comes out on video...

Wait until it plays on HBO, Showtime, Starz, etc...

Demand your money back, even if you saw it for free!

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