Review: Once Upon a Time

When designer Lawrence Xu puked rainbow unicorns over Liu Yifei and Yang Yang.

Liu Yifei is pretty much the definition of fairylike for me, and so I was so excited when she announced she’ll be playing a fox immortal in Once Upon a Time三生三世十里桃花.  Unfortunately, even her and Yang Yang’s face could not savage the film’s undeveloped characters, zero chemistry, poor acting, and atrocious aesthetics. 

The film opens as Bai Qian (Liu Yifei), a fox fairy that is 30,000-years-old, runs through the forest like fairies do and then enters a giant jellyfish carriage to attend a wedding.    There we find out that the immortals have terrible taste in fashion, and Bai Qian  finds a wandering child  who speaks like Siri.    Soon we learn that Bai Qian looks just like the child’s mother, and the child’s father is her betrothed (Yang Yang) . What a small world!

It’s hard to criticize this face, but it’s about the only thing going for the film.

Based on the book of the same name, the film continues as the audience slowly meets her two “past lives”   –  her status as a cross-dressing youth that  ended with her being banished to Earth, and her marriage to Yehua  while banished as the human Susu. What follows is a hodge podge of scenes plucked from the novel that have little emotional continuity.

Yang Yang’s Yehua came off as a major creep instead of a playful lover.   Liu Yifei fares better with her facial expressions, but her line readings are void of emotion and are often slurred together.   Also, I know their son is a child, but given what the Little Actors Troupe  are capable of, there’s no excuse for the casting choice.

The visuals are probably the most expensive part of the film.  Props to the actually cute CGI sidekick for once, and I guess the ocean  and forest backdrops  are stunning if only as concept art. Other than that, the heavy color saturation made everything look tacky.     A few of the Laurence Xu-designed dresses for Bai Qian that look like Machesa  haute couture are are stunning, but from  from Luo Jin’s rainbow rooster look to Liu Yifei’s Candyland wedding dress, most of the outfits are atrocious.

Overall, the film is a good idea on paper executed very poorly.

Pretty concept art with minimal animation.

More petty concept art with minimal animation.


11 thoughts on “Review: Once Upon a Time

  1. Agree, I found the movie disappointing as well. I don’t know if it was LYF/YY’s fault or the scriptwriter though–the movie was just too short to really develop the characters. I also gained newfound appreciation for how the drama did the storyline chronologically instead of following the novel (like the movie did). Thanks to all the buildup between SuSu/YeHua in the drama, scenes like their meeting at the Eastern Sea was incredibly beautiful and touching (I remember getting chills watching YeHua re-encounter BaiQian). Unfortunately, this scene fell totally flat in the movie because it was right at the beginning when no development had occurred yet between the main characters. Same with other emotional scenes like BaiQian regaining her memories…there was just not enough buildup and backstory! In the drama I completely felt BQ’s heartwrenching pain in that moment, but in the movie I was wondering why she was so devastated because they didn’t show us enough of the pain she went through during her SuSu days. Also not enough development in the romance–when BQ agreed to go to TianGong to marry YH and then got super jealous of his first wife SuSu I was wondering when the heck she fell in love with him? It was so out of the blue. I felt nothing when YH/BQ were being so angsty as BQ found out about the SuSu backstory. BQ also annoyed me when all she could do was cry and collapse in a drunken angsty heap on the ground. What happened to badass BQ who coldly went after XuanNv/SuJin to get revenge for her loved ones??

    That being said, there was definitely promise. I did finally feel emotions at the end when BQ was sobbing after YH sacrificed himself–that was well-done. I think if they had more time to develop the characters (and/or script was better), LYF/YY could’ve done a good job. I still think Mark is a much better actor than YY and YM is a better actress than LYF (and I love Mark/YM’s chemistry so I definitely wouldn’t change that casting!), but if LYF/YY had the drama version to work with I think they could’ve brought the characters to life as well.

    Oh well, it was still nice eyecandy (barring a few really horrendous outfits of course). The background CGI was beautiful and much grander in scale than the drama. Unfortunately that’s really the only thing great about it though…sadly a wasted opportunity.

  2. It was a letdown considering that in my mind LYF made the perfect Baiqian visually. However, poor directing, poor writing can often lead to poor acting all around even with really amazing actors. I have a soft spot for LYF even though she doesn’t have a huge acting range. However, with an appropriate director, LYF can be good.Yang Yang was poorly miscast. It’s a shame really.

  3. I really hated Yang Yang’ Yehua. IN a interview, he mention he has almost prefect Yehua. And he was pleased with his version. Unfortunately I strongly disagree. Yang Yang’acting lack depth to bring out Yehua. I repeat watching Mark’s drama. But movie is a quick one off…..

  4. Yehua was so sleazy when he tried to sleep in the same bed as Bai Qian – reminds me of that awkward “bed scene” in Liu Yifei’s Never Gone. XD I feel like LYF doesn’t have the skills required to handle heavy emotional scenes (regaining memory about Susu) – I swear she reacted the same way in The Four and Bronze Terrace/The Assassins.

    • Don’t forget the time she acted in a Chinese ghost story and regain her memories with Louis koo’s character,it was the same as well. The drama was way better but it was expected,but I like her dresses though, not the wedding dress.

    • That scene was when I gave up on Yang Yang and the director.

      The first time I saw the Kris Wu scene, I saw it without any context, and I definitely thought he was playing an autistic kid.

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