REVIEWER'S NOTE: I originally reviewed this film via a studio screener that had an incorrect looking aspect ratio and out of sync audio. Upon revisiting the film through the final product, I've increased the movie and replay rating by one-half point each, as the more technically sound presentation made the film more pleasant to view.
More often than not, it's Hollywood who gets a bad rap for taking whatever acclaimed foreign film is entertaining outside our shores and remaking it, often stripping the original film of its unique qualities to shoehorn in, overblown elements that try and brand the film as distinctly "American." In "What Women Want," the 2010 Chinese remake of the American film by the same name, audiences see firsthand, that perhaps, this problem isn't isolated to America, or that turnabout is fair play. Writer/Director Chen Daming assembles two acting powerhouses, Andy Lau and Gong Li to fill the shoes of Mel Gibson and Helen Hunt, respectively. From there, "What Women Want" merely coasts to the finish, on the simple concept of a misogynist who gains the ability to read the minds of women.
The casting is without a doubt, the one element that makes this remake worth a viewing. Andy Lau is a natural pick for Sun Zigang, the smart, lady-killer, ad executive. On paper, to American audiences familiar with Lau from such films as "Infernal Affairs," Lau seems as easily a "stunt casting" pick as Gibson was, but those more familiar with Lau's lesser known works, understand the role is hardly a stretch, especially when compared to his work in "Fulltime Killer." Lau truly exudes fun and when the story demands it, drama, although it's not a solitary effort. Gong Li is absolutely an upgrade from the dull, stretched thin performance of Helen Hunt. Her Li Yilong establishes herself as a confident rival and her unwillingness to back down from Zigang makes the office rival dynamic of the film completely believable and helps build the budding romantic tension the story demands.
The story though, is the remake's weakest aspect. Bringing nothing new to the table, it's familiar ground for viewers of the original, right down to the bloated runtime. When Zigang initially gains his ability to read women's minds, the film spends far too long with him playing around before having him use it to get the upper hand on Yilong in the business world. What should have been a great opportunity to bring a Chinese spin on a generic tale is every bit as frustrating as an American film that clumsily adds an American flavor at the expense of cutting subtext. There's no real subtext in "What Women Want," so to offer viewers the same, essentially uninspired story but with foreign actors, ultimately results in a product that feels a little pointless.
Fans of the original would be well served in seeking this version out for curiosity's sake, if only to see the story told with better actors. Likewise, the film's visual style is much more slick and eye catching than Nancy Meyers' almost TV-quality production. On the same hand, if you've managed to avoid the original, I'd recommend this remake solely on the merits of Lau and Li's solid on-screen chemistry and sharp comic timing, not to mention the notion that some viewers may be unable to find humor in Mel Gibson's work anymore. While Lau does get a few goofy, over-the-top gags to work with, he does a good job of playing it straight when asked, unlike Gibson's eye winking against type performance a decade prior. Just don't enter "What Women Want" expecting anything truly clever, as neither version aspires to be more than (mostly) light entertainment.
The 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer is very clean looking with strong color reproduction and a consistent visual look throughout. Detail has been jeopardized by DNR that is hard not to notice, which is sad as the visual style of the film is very defined and I'd have gladly put up with some grain or minor digital noise for an image that has more pop to it.
The Dolby Digital Mandarin 2.0 audio track is a bit flat, with dialogue front-loaded and sporting a hint of hollowness. Overall, it's a clear track, but unimpressive, even for a standard comedy film. English and Chinese subtitles are included.
With only Andy Lau and Gong Li to provide incentive to watch the film in the first place, 'What Women Want" does nothing to define itself as more than a Chinese remake of an American film. The same bloated story is presented in roughly the same fashion and it's only the film's more refined visual style and more inspired casting choices that make it entertaining at all. Rent It.