Like one long viral video, Taiwanese pop star (and movie multi-hyphenate) Jay Chou's "The Rooftop" is a bullet train to bananasville, its tonal eccentricities sure to wear out even the most dedicated connoisseur of silly cinema. Writer-director Chou's ambitious Luhrmann-esque merging of musical numbers, kung fu, vaudeville and dippy romance is set in a candy-colored world with a deliberately retro vibe. (Think afros, polyester, vintage cars and bowling.)
Chou plays — poses as, would be more accurate — Wax, a sensitive, headband-sporting tough from a cheery, artificially designed rooftop ghetto of happy-go-lucky stragglers who eat, laugh and sing together. He falls for budding actress Starling (Lee Xin'ai), a recessive, giggling beauty forced into movie stardom to pay off her father's debts. (You read that right.) Obstacles include vicious gang leader Big Red (Alan Ko), competitor for Wax and his goofy buddies in the lucrative trade of debt collection for a mobster, and William (Darren), Starling's jealous, sinister male costar.
Crammed with everything from moonlit crooning to bathhouse fighting to shadow puppetry and even a bloody climax, "The Rooftop" is a restless boy-fights-for-girl fantasia, too stylistically bulbous a misfire to allow for easy enjoyment as either a demented throwback or a genre hybrid.
Rating: No MPAA rating
Running time: 2 hours
Playing at: AMC Atlantic