Reviewed by Soh Yun-Huei
Directors: Sylvia Chang, Alan Yuen
Writing Credits: Sylvia Chang, Alan Yuen
Cast: Daniel Wu, Angelica Lee, Edison Chen, Patricia Ha, Anthony Wong
Genre: Romance Science Fiction
Country: Hong Kong
Year Released: 2001
Runtime: 106 min
Rating: **½ (out of four stars)
Princess D is one of those movies that you want to say is good, because it's so well intended... but you can't. Directed by Sylvia Chang and Alex Yuen, Princess D seems so much like a labor of love it seems almost cruel to criticize the film. However, despite the pretty people and acceptable visuals, this is much like Tempting Hearts, Sylvia Changs previous work. Princess D is a slow, vacuous film that isnt particularly interesting to sit through, and it suffers from illusions of grandeur - trying a bit too hard to incorporate social messages into the plot.
Princess D tells the tale of Joker (Daniel Wu), a computer programmer who is bent on creating the perfect cyberbabe - one that is not really perfect, but is closest to being a human. He finds Ling (Lee Xin Jie), a rebellious bartender, to be an inspiration, and models his cyberbabe after her. The virtual creation even gets a name - Princess D. However, not everyone on the creative team thinks that Ling is the suitable model for their creation, but Joker is steadfast in his decision. Meanwhile, Joker's younger brother Kid (Edison Chan) tries to make an Internet-based romance work, but soon finds that it may not be what he wants.
Ling comes with a lot of emotional baggage - her father (Jonathan Lee in a cameo appearance) is serving time in prison, her mother (Xia Wen Xi) suffers from dementia, and her younger brother is constantly involved in fights and other delinquent activities. As Joker works with Ling, he finds himself falling deeper and deeper in love with her. Of course, Lings problems seem to multiply once her romance develops with Joker, much like many other romance movies of this ilk. When Lings brother gets into serious trouble again, Ling has to decide whether to help her brother out of the fix - only this time, the stakes are much higher than before.
Princess D strives to present a realistic view of how the youth of today deal with love and loss, but the story seems a little bit too farfetched to be considered close to the truth. In fact, at times the movie seems just a bit too manipulative, and cynical moviegoers (like myself) may find it difficult to identify with the film. Although a romance is understandably slower than most other genres, there are times where Princess D rambles for minutes on end seemingly without much direction. You wait ages for something to happen, and when something does happen, you find that it's not really worth the wait - which really is a downer.
Performance-wise, although all three main leads are attractive to look at, they present no true thespian talent. It's the bit players like Anthony Wong (who plays Joker and Kid's father) and Xia Wen Xi who manages to impress despite relatively short amounts of screen time. Since the film's theme is about the creation of a virtual entity, there are quite a few computer-animated sequences. These are generally of pretty high quality, but other than being eye candy, do not do much to forward the plot of the film. Princess D isn't a bad movie, but, like a real princess, it spends too much time standing around and doing nothing.
Final Word: As far as Chinese commercial films go, Princess D is a relatively safe choice; however, its also a rather bland movie.