Xu Lang (Zheng Xu) has just invented something that could revolutionize travel forever: Supergas, a chemical which increases the productivity of fossil fuels by around 30%. All he has to do to close a billion-dollar deal is get the signature of the company's biggest shareholder, currently on a retreat in Thailand. Unfortunately, his work rival Gao Bo (Huang Bo) is also interested in making a deal over the same product, and his plans differ greatly from Xu Lang's. Xu hops on a plane, Gao in hot pursuit, each hoping to find their reclusive target first, but fate places Xu in a seat next to Wang Bao (Wang Baoqiang), the world's most troublesome tourist. Over the next 48 hours, Xu's entire schedule is upended by his new friend, who has an uncanny knack for attracting the worst kinds of trouble.
Lost in Thailand is an odd export, a note-for-note Chinese version of the American "mismatched buddy comedy" (road trip variant). In China, the film is notable for being the highest-grossing film in the country's history -- a surprise given the country's penchant for historical epics and martial arts movies. Sadly, although some of the film's humor seems to be lost in translation, both literal (the subtitle translation) and cultural, the real flaw is that the film also inherits the problems of the films it follows. It might be refreshing for domestic audiences, but as a foreign film for US audiences to enjoy, there's nothing other than language to set it apart from the flawed films we're making here.
Contrivance is the film's biggest issue. The plot depends on Xu being unable to reach his destination; sadly, although there are a few good natural roadblocks (Xu doesn't have the right power adapter for his laptop), the screenplay mostly just makes the characters dumber in order to slow them down. When Wang asks about Gao, Xu lies and says he slept with Gao's wife instead of explaining the contract conflict for no apparent reason, which of course leads to Wang telling Gao this information and Gao believing it (as well as absolutely refusing to listen when they try to explain for the rest of the film). Xu's demeanor toward Wang changes at the script's convenience; there are multiple "touching" scenes where Xu feels bad for yelling at Wang, only for him to resume doing it a moment later. The main obstacle is that Xu needs to know which temple the shareholder is visiting, but his secretary hasn't figured it out by the time Xu has to leave the office. Even that's a cheat: it would be more natural for him to leave with the map and end up losing it. Instead, Xu spends the whole movie trying to download a map. The most contrived moment in the film occurs when Wang and Xu have a fight on a train for no reason other than to dispose of Xu's newly-purchased SIM card, right in the middle of Xu's download.
The film's other problem is Wang himself. Although he is not quite as obnoxious as I was afraid he'd be, he is still a real nuisance, making a number of mistakes that any normal stranger would find unforgivable. Somehow, their entire partnership is based on Wang not having any money, and Xu providing it. Since Wang is profoundly unhelpful, destructive, annoying, and distracting, it makes no sense that Xu would not run for the hills. The film eventually reveals Wang's heart-tugging backstory, but it almost feels like a waste of time; clearly the film is already set on making their friendship happen. The only thing that saves this from being insufferable is the light amount of comedic and friendly chemistry that Zheng Xu and Wang Baoquiang have with one another.
The film's humor is all over the map. Physical comedy makes up most of the film, including a car chase, a fake massage, and some physical scuffles. One lengthy joke involves Wang's interest in meeting a ladyboy. Since Wang doesn't appear to understand what "ladyboy" means, the film avoids any sort of gay panic scenes, but Xu's comments about ladyboys and Thailand feel kind of like racism. Later, all three protagonists accidentally crash a drug deal, and there is the brief implication that Xu and Wang have left Gao to be murdered. These kinds of comedies are often referred to as being "rude, crude, and out-of-control." Much like the weaker American buddy comedies, Lost in Thailand represents the wrong kind of each.
It's clear what kind of audience Well Go USA is hoping to attract with this cover art, which depicts the three protagonists slumped on the ground, beat up, and covered in grime, down to the font. If anyone still doesn't get it, the Hollywood Reporter quote at the top -- "Thailand's answer to The Hangover!" -- will spell it out. That said, it's a clean, attractive looking design, so don't take any of that as a complaint so much as an observation. The disc comes in an eco-friendly Vortex Blu-Ray case, and there is no insert.
The Video and Audio
Lost in Thailand is granted a 2.39:1 1080p AVC transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track that are both very good. Although the picture looks a little bit digital around the edges, this is generally a sharp, detailed picture with nicely saturated colors, and no garish instances of artifacting or banding (a little shows up on a TV screen near the very beginning, but not elsewhere on the screen, which leads me to believe it has to do with the digital compositing, not the overall picture quality). The adventure that Xu and Wang go on also lends itself to a number of great audio opportunities, including a sequence where they're rushed down a river, or the car chase that ends with some vehicular destruction. Dialogue sounds fine, and music is nicely rendered. English captions for the deaf and hard of hearing are provided, although the track has a couple of noticeable spelling errors, and subtitles the entire movie, including a few passages in English.
The one extra on the disc is a making-of documentary (16:25, HD). Like the film itself, it feels very American: the actors explain their roles in the movie and recount the story, with B-roll, clips, and graphics to boost the already short running time.
A promo for Well Go USA and trailers for Special ID, Badges of Fury, and The Rooftop play before the main menu. An original trailer for Lost in Thailand is also included.
Although Lost in Thailand is a bad film, the real flaw for American audiences is less that it's poorly made (although it is) and more that the United States doesn't really need to see it. We've got plenty of these kinds of movies here, and this falls far short of the best of them. Skip it.
Please check out my other DVDTalk DVD, Blu-Ray and theatrical reviews and/or follow me on Twitter.