Happy Times

A poor, middle-aged bachelor (comic actor Zhao Benshan) who keeps failing to find a spouse through a dating service finally meets a chubby divorcee with a son and stepdaughter who strikes him as ideal. After planning a lavish wedding he can’t afford, he contrives with a friend to spruce up an abandoned bus as the Happy Times Hotel and rent it out on an hourly basis to couples seeking privacy, but his own prudishness ruins the plan. Meanwhile, he becomes acquainted with his fiancee’s spoiled son and neglected, blind stepdaughter, the latter dreaming that her father will return to pay for an operation that restores her eyesight. Zhang Yimou’s disappointing stab at comedy and soap operaa far cry from The Story of Qiu Ju (1992), which in retrospect may be his best filmis interesting as a look at both failed patriarchy and middle-class aspirations in mainland China, but as a tug at the heartstrings it’s simply too calculated and contrived to register with much conviction. In Mandarin with subtitles. 106 min. (JR)

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