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Review: Charming Chinese comedy 'King of Peking' has an infectious love for cinema

Review: Charming Chinese comedy 'King of Peking' has an infectious love for cinema
Jun Zhao, left, and Wang Naixun in the movie "King of Peking." (Angus Gibson / Netflix)

With the same cinephile spirit as “Cinema Paradiso” and “Be Kind Rewind,” this Chinese comedy is an inventive and light exploration of a father’s love for both his son and the movies. “King of Peking” has many charms, but its passion for cinema is its most infectious.

After his divorce, Big Wong (Zhao Jun) is a single parent to his son, Little Wong (Wang Naixun), and the two have a ramshackle business screening American films in their village in China in the 1990s. But dual challenges — a broken projector and a custody fight — find Big Wong in need of a new source of income. He takes a job as a janitor at a local cinema, but he brings in extra money making and selling bootleg DVDs of the movies that play there.

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Big Wong’s ingenuity and attention to detail are echoed in the film itself. From the moment the film opens with an old-fashioned iris in, writer-director Sam Voutas’ affection for Hollywood films is clear. Classic scores from “2001: A Space Odyssey” to “The Sting” pervade “King of Peking,” as do Big Wong’s movie nerd references.

But the movie isn’t just an excuse for the filmmaker to declare his love for “Lethal Weapon”; it dives into family dynamics, focusing on the son’s relationship with his unconventional father with some sweet and more serious moments.

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‘King of Peking’

In Mandarin with English subtitles

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 28 minutes

Playing: Streaming on Netflix

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