Starring: Ge You, Xu Fan, Bobby C. King
Director: Feng Xiaogang
Running Time: 103 mins
Be There Or Be Square is a Chinese film about a man and a woman living in Los Angeles whose paths cross over the years, however every time they meet, some sort of calamity arises.
This is one of the cheesiest and most ridiculous romantic comedies I’ve seen in a long time, complete with preposterous mishaps, a very predictable central relationship, and some of the most cringeworthy moments you’ll ever see on the big screen. So, you may think that Be There Or Be Square is a bad film, and although it’s full of problems, it’s actually a movie that uses its light-hearted and pleasant atmosphere to an advantage, surprisingly managing to really grow on you over the course of an hour and a half or so.
We’ll start off, however, with my prevailing memory of the film, which is undoubtedly how cheesy it is. Yes, romantic comedies are always guiltiest of this, but there’s something about this movie’s constant bombardment with stupid romantic twists that keep reuniting and separating two characters who have absolutely no reason to be apart, just so that there can be another cute reunion later on.
Of course, there’s an element of its ultra-cheesiness that’s pretty fun to watch, and as the film goes on and you become more and more used to how schmaltzy and generic everything is, there are some cheesy moments that are actually pretty funny, even if they’re totally predictable a mile off. So, while I can’t say that the film’s screenplay deserves all that many points for originality, its sense of humour and light-heartedness make what could have been a painfully cheesy rom-com into a fairly pleasant and often entertaining comedy.
When it comes to the central relationship, the screenplay doesn’t do all that well to make for an emotionally riveting or romantically passionate watch, however the two lead performances from Ge You and Xu Fan definitely do enough to make the lead duo entertaining and likable presences from start to finish.
Although their characters act like idiots for the majority of the story, the two have great chemistry throughout, and manage to pull off the generic love-hate relationship very well, with their bickering early on being both convincing and very entertaining, and the deepening emotion in their friendship just as believable as a result of their on-screen rapport.
The biggest problem with this movie by a mile, however, is the fact that all of its best elements, the lead performances included, are overshadowed by those stupid and preposterously cheesy moments. The film’s ending not only sets up for the generic rom-com finale, but then goes some way to cram as many genre tropes in as possible, even if it doesn’t make all that much sense.
What’s more is that from time to time, there are scenes in this film that have absolutely no impact on the rest of the story. It’s not a hugely pervasive problem, but when you have random events that pop up and then completely disappear and never return, it’s really jarring to see, and shows that the film’s screenplay wasn’t written with all that much thought, and definitely wouldn’t have been anywhere near as entertaining had it been for the lead performances and pleasant atmosphere.
And in the end, it’s that pleasant atmosphere that really saves the movie. Yes, it’s dumb and cheesy at every moment, but the film’s sense of humour and wonderfully fluffy and light-hearted vibes mean you can sit back and smile at all the cheesy clichés unfolding before you, something that ultimately grows into a pretty enjoyable, albeit not exactly impressive, watch, and that’s why I’m giving Be There Or Be Square a 7.3 overall.