Following the bumbling antics of a female cartoonist who becomes embroiled in a tale of espionage and international intrigue, My Lucky Star, the first Chinese film to be directed by an American woman, essentially functions as China’s answer to Johnny English, yet another limp spy spoof that fails to make any interesting critiques about the genre, let alone construct a humorous gag. The film opens with Sofie (Zhang Ziyi) being held hostage within a nondescript industrial complex. Just as she’s about to be interrogated, she’s simultaneously rescued and swept off her feet by super spy David (Leehom Wang). But this sequence is quickly revealed to be just another one of Sofie’s daydreams. In order to escape the crushing banality of her life, she often lets her imagination run wild throughout various, hyper-stylized fantasies, such as beating her boss with oversized boxing gloves, and wherein her various cartoon drawings spring to life. Fantasy quickly bleeds into reality, though, after Sofie stumbles into the actual flesh-and-blood David, causing herself to become entangled in his mission to acquire the Lucky Star diamond.
David and Sofie are less characters than props, and the film is perfectly content to treat them as such, swiftly moving them from location to location, allowing Sofie to get into danger and have David subsequently swoop in to save her, all while engaging in dull, monotonous gags that Austin Powers beat to death long ago. Director Dennie Gordon desperately attempts to enhance the rote proceedings by having the stylization of Sofie’s dreams bleed into the films very form: Action sequences often fracture into various different split screens, and the transition between locations is achieved through comic-book-esque animations. Unfortunately, most of the animations look like they were crafted using Microsoft Paint, contributing to the film’s already cheap production values.
More troubling than the film’s formal and narrative ineptitude is how it regards Sofie as a character. From the outset, all she desires is a man to take care of her, casting herself as the damsel in distress even in fantasy, the place where a person is most able to exert mastery over their various fears and desires. And as the narrative progresses, Sofie never evolves, remaining clumsily in need of David’s rescue from escalating dangers. Risibly, the only instances when Sofie is of use to their mission are when her body is involved, as in an extended sequence set inside a nightclub where she dances provocatively onstage in a skimpy nurse costume as an all-male audience leers from the shadows. Laura Mulvey’s worst nightmare. My Lucky Star isn’t a film, but a test of how many sexist and unfunny scenarios one can endure.