Published May 31, 2013This co-production between China and South Korea is a peculiar attempt to emulate the conventions of a Hollywood-style screwball romantic comedy. And to a point, it works. A Wedding Invitation has all the safe sass of a Julia Roberts vehicle, but the quirks of a foreign perspective make this ambition vs. commitment flick feel fresher than it should.
The story commences ten years previously, in May, 2002. A confident young man approaches a morose girl sitting on a park bench; he cracks her sadness with silliness and kindness, and they form a bond over a critical love of food. A montage depicting their subsequent inseparability leads to a rejected marriage proposal five years down the line.
Qiao Qiao (Bai Bai-he) suggests they break up instead, in order to pursue all of the career ambitions their relationship has been distracting them from. Li Xing (Eddie Peng) grudgingly agrees and, in a pathetic display of insecure romanticism, vows to become whatever she wants him to be. They draw up a contract stating that if they're both still single in five years, they'll get married.
Fast forward to 2012. He's a wealthy world-class chef competing in an international cooking challenge and she fills her days hanging out with her gay best friend, Mao Mao, complaining about the shortcomings of restaurant food. When Qiao Qiao receives an invitation to Li Xing's wedding, the stage is set for some My Best Friend's Wedding-biting shenanigans.
Charming and amiable in an extremely broad way (I'm guessing the racist jab, "you're rude like a Thai" requires some cultural context to appreciate though), A Wedding Invitation is a generic crowd-pleaser that greatly benefits from the easy chemistry between its leads. There's a bit of a cocky, vindictive edge to Li Xing's treatment of his former lover in the first half of the film that neutralizes and humanizes some of the saccharine fairy tale trappings that bog down the home stretch.
After the details of Li Xing's theatrical, Barney Stinson-like master plan are revealed, the movie takes an unexpected (but deftly set up, upon reflection) left turn into tear-jerker territory; and when it gets there, it practically begs for your empathy juice. For a metaphor that's perhaps a bit too on-the-nose, the tour of emotions the romance encompasses is mirrored by the flavour themes in each stage of the cooking challenge Li Xing is competing in.
While initially a pleasant version of cinematic comfort food, the blend of flavours this maudlin dramedy introduces proves to be too cloying on the palate to fully enjoy. (CJ Entertainment)