Para Para Sakura (2001) / Romance-Musical
aka Ang kwong ang kwong ying ji dut
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG for mild sexuality
Running Time: 90 min.
Cast: Aaron Kwok, Cecilia Cheung, Ah-Niu, Kazuhiko Nishimura, Niu Tien
Director: Jingle Ma
Screenplay: Susan Chan
Review published April 26, 2005
Have you ever eaten so much candy that you experience a sugar overload, such that you couldnít possibly have another bite or drink of anything sweet for fear of inducing severe nausea? This accurately resembles the feeling after about 15 minutes of watching Para Para Sakura. Any film that tries to be this sickeningly sweet should have the Surgeon Generalís warnings on their ads and movie posters. Now I suppose you might be thinking that Iím some jaded adult male who is far too cranky and opinionated to ever enjoy such fluff meant for pure entertainment for young girls, and you are probably correct, but that doesnít mean the film isnít hackneyed clichť-ridden cotton candy badness. There really is a way you can make a film for young girls without the need for trite formula, right?
Aaron Kwok (2000 AD) plays Philip, a color-blind dance instructor who meets Yuri (Cecilia Cheung, Lost in Time), a spunky rich girl who tries to hire him to be her bodyguard after seeing his agile dance moves. Philip is instantly attracted to Yuri, but trying to get reciprocal love may prove futile since she is slated for an arranged marriage soon. His social graces speak to a naivetť and virginal nature that makes him shy among the ladies, as he has a hard time expressing his attraction for women, and especially when he canít even say the words ďI love you.Ē Will meek young Philip be able to woo Yuri in the end? DuuhhhÖ
Para Para Sakura may have had a notion to dip into the market for musicals emanating from the Bollywood region, but the dance numbers arenít nearly as elaborate or impressive. The Para Para is about as much of a dance style as my morning Tae-Bo fitness tapes and, while it might provide an excellent workout, watching people exercise hasnít been exciting since the Aerobicise girls back in the early 80s. The attempt is made to incorporate other styles of dance, but "Riverdance" hasnít exactly been in vogue for a few years now, and breakdancingÖwell, most viewers of this movie probably werenít alive when that was all the rage. What makes the dance/musical numbers even less appealing is the fact that, with the possible exception of the last number, the music thatís being played isnít what the dancers are moving to. That, or the dancers have no sense of rhythm or beat. Can you imagine people tap dancing to a ballad? Yep, they do just thatÖand they also dub in the tap sounds as well.
When there arenít any scenes involving music or dancing, there is some childish comedy and sappy drama. If the musical scenes play out like a Mentos commercial, the rest of the film looks and feels like the acting sequences at the preamble of a Michael Jackson video. Well, why not, when Aaron Kwok practically looks and acts like Michael in his early video days himself, exuding that boyish innocent charm while flashing dance moves to get away from would-be perpetrators. Unfortunately the songs arenít up to Michaelís ďThrillerĒ days, with breezy, forgettable dance beats and slow, bland ballads in the mix. As annoyingly effeminate as Kwok portrays Philip, even worse is the hyper-active energy that Cecilia Cheung exudes with almost every line. I can imagine that the intended effect was to give the appearance of comedy without having to write anything truly funny to say, but the real effect is a nails-across-the-chalkboard experience with almost every line uttered. Both actors have shown appeal before, so blame director Jungle Ma when you throw the remote into the television set.
Para Para Sakura is of recommendation only to for people who like feel-good song and dance films regardless of how cornball they are. Donít say you havenít been warned: Four out if five dentists surveyed say that watching stories this sugar-coated causes cavities. Remember to brush afterwards if you absolutely must watch it.
©2003 Vince Leo