Film Review: My Lucky Star

Glossy romance finds a travel agent mixed up in international intrigue when she falls for a secret agent.

The latest example of the mainstreaming of Chinese cinema, My Lucky Star takes an Amélie approach to the James Bond genre, welding mischievous whimsy to large-scale espionage. Anchored by a gorgeous Zhang Ziyi, this ambitious piece of escapist hokum is entertaining enough, but ultimately too synthetic to win over U.S. theatregoers.

Zhang's character is based on her role in 2009's Sophie's Revenge, a more conventional romantic comedy. Here an unsuccessful manga artist toiling in obscurity at a travel agency, Sophie wins a vacation to Singapore, where she inadvertently becomes involved in an illegal arms deal when she bumps into secret agent David Yan (the handsome but stiff Leehom Wang).

David is after the stolen "Lucky Star," a diamond so large that the villainous Charlize Wong (Terri Kwan), aka the "Black Widow," plans to use it with a high-energy laser to blow up Bermuda. Charlize sends her henchman Gao (Jack Kao) to buy the jewel from fence Li Wan (Morris Rong) in a Singapore nightclub.

That's when Sophie steps in, blowing David's cover and sending both on the run to the agent's island hideout. To make amends, Sophie dances in a Hong Kong strip club, but her efforts to seduce Li Wan there backfire. Then it's off to Macao, where Sophie battles Charlize over David's affections while arms dealers haggle over the laser weapon.

Directed by Dennie Gordon, a veteran of TV shows like "Burn Notice" and "Ally McBeal" as well as the feature Joe Dirt, My Lucky Star opens strong, blending day-glo colors, CGI gimmicks and animated sequences with upscale pan-Asian locations to build a posh, seductive but still jittery world for Sophie and her friends.

The movie tries to maintain a lighthearted, tongue-in-cheek tone, but the script is a hodgepodge of dead ends and red herrings. The only real joke is that Sophie, a world-class klutz, is played by one of the screen's most glamorous stars. Zhang looks great in her gamin bangs and micro-miniskirts, but it's tough, maybe impossible, for her to play stupid.

Having a block of wood for a co-star doesn't help. Wang seems mannerly and looks good in his costumes, but even a swimming pool upstages him here. Standouts in the cast include Yao Chen and Ruby Lin, who play Sophie's motor-mouth friends. Their catty bickering is better executed than the movie's attempts at espionage suspense.

In spite of its drawbacks, My Lucky Star is always fun to watch and better than, say, a Jennifer Aniston/Gerard Butler vehicle. Bonus: Zhang and Wang sing a duet over the closing credits.