ReviewWriter: Elaine EweWriter Ratings:Overall: Cast: Plot: Effects: Cinematography: Watch this if you liked:
In his sophomore directorial effort, "The Rooftop", Jay Chou only confirms to us that his talents lie in singing and dancing, as opposed to acting and directing. Every time Jay Chou sings and dances in his musical film is the only time where we sit up and listen, otherwise the film fails where it matters most. Filled with one-dimensional characters moving through a predictable plot delivering cheesy lines, "The Rooftop" is just a two-hour long Jay Chou concert featuring appearances by various stars like Eric Tsang, Wang Xueqi and Alan Kuo.
Wax (Jay Chou) and his friends Tempura (Alan Kuo), A-Lang and Egg, are hippies who hail from a hippie/bohemian community known as Rooftop, so named because they are literally on a rooftop. The people of Rooftop are the living embodiment of the hippie lifestyle - they have no need of money other than to buy their necessities, they sing and dance all day long and they dress up in clothes that look suspiciously like they were raided from their grandparents' closets. Wax is also in love with Starling, a starlet whose face is on a billboard that all Rooftop inhabitants see every day. Just as luck would have it, Wax bumps into Starling one day, and so begins the poor-boy-in-love-with-a-star love story, punctuated by song and dance.
It is evident from the start that this film is made by a filmmaker who is very much in love with himself. Not only does Chou play the lead role, his character Wax is also tall, quiet, unmaterialistic, funny, romantic and devoted. Wax is Chou's immediate onscreen persona, and while he endears himself to us immediately, acting is not about playing yourself. Unfortunately, Chou rarely pushes the envelope with Wax, what with his bland expressions, and when he does, it comes off so cheesy that you just want to cover your face out of second-hand embarrassment.
If Chou could not make the movie work, neither could the rest of the characters. The trouble with the supporting characters is that they are purely there as window dressing. It is undeniable that they are funny, but that is all they are, and after the first hour, the slapstick antics grow old. There is no emphasis on making them compelling characters. We don't know why the people of Rooftop chose to shun all monetary values or why Wax is so love with Starling beyond the fact that she is the face on the billboard that he sees every day. Chou attempts to give Tempura and Starling personal conflicts regarding his job as a rent collector for the mafia and her debt to her co-star William, respectively, but the two subplots are so underdeveloped that they are rendered meaningless. There is also hardly any chemistry between the characters, be it Chou and his buddies or Chou and his leading lady beyond what we are told onscreen.
As for the plot, "The Rooftop" does not even have enough of it. Although it is not fair to expect a "West Side Story" or "Les Miserables" level of storytelling from what is intended to be pure musical entertainment, it still feels like we have been short-changed, especially after Jay Chou's better-than-average directorial debut, "Secret", and the fact that this is his sophomore film as a director. To make things worse, the plot, which is barely holding up as it is with the various random shenanigans and frolicking around by Wax and his buddies, dovetails in an ending that is taken directly from a Chinese music video or Korean drama. The only thing that stops the film from hitting rock bottom is the neat cinematography and choreography, which manages to elegantly hide Chou's skills in martial arts, and simultaneously introduces a brand-new form of martial arts where the kicks and punches are executed in time with the musical rhythm.
Under the direction of other directors, Jay Chou manages to deliver more than stoic facial expressions and half-hearted smiles, but left to his own devices such as in "The Rooftop", Chou cannot act to save his life. The film has a lot of potential to be an indie sleeper hit, judging by the quirky storyline, offbeat humour and musical martial arts, but Chou chooses to weigh it down with stereotypical characters, unnecessary subplots and forgettable music. "The Rooftop" makes us laugh with its overindulgence, but it needs more than comedy to be the charming and heart-warming crowd-pleaser it aims to be.Cinema Online, 10 July 2013