Sunday, January 17, 2010

Li Ching in Whose Baby Is In The Classroom?

The 21-year-old Li Ching and the 40-year-old Peter Chen play 25 and 28, respectively, in this awkward comedy from 1969. Whose Baby Is In The Classroom? is Peter Chen's last film and it's not exactly a masterpiece.

In a contrived setup, Chen plays Chen Zifeng, a chemistry teacher saddled with an abandoned baby at an all girls school. As he begins his job as the first male teacher at the facility, he interacts with the uptight Helen Li (Li Ching), an old childhood sweetheart now a repressed school affairs administrator.

Ouyang Sha-Fei's school headmistress, meanwhile, is trying to fix up Helen with her son.

The film proceeds in a mix of comedy and drama; one minute a suicidal girl is confiding in Mr. Chen and the next he's taking his students to the school roof to dance and learn chemistry.

Director Inoue Umetsugu seems to be not sure what kind of film he's making: comedy or musical or drama. The whole thing was a bit more tedious than I expected it to be, given that I'm a fan of other Shaw musicals and certainly count myself a fan of Li Ching and Peter Chen Ho.

The film takes a full hour to get to the setup any viewer can see coming as soon as the film starts: the abandoned baby will be rumoured to be Helen Li's from her romance with childhood sweetheart Chen Zifeng.

The film is not a total failure; Li Ching looks supercute in glasses in her early scenes and Peter Chen expends a lot of his spindly energy in the scenes with the baby.

The scenes of Peter Chen in his laboratory reminded me of Fred MacMurray in one of those Disney Flubber movies. If you can get beyond that, and tolerate the film's 108-minute running time, there might be some moments of pleasure to be had here.

The fact that this was Peter Chen's last film before his death in 1970 adds a layer of emotion to the scenes that don't really deserve it. And Li Ching remains charming as always; the actress was so much better in modern films than period pictures and by the 1970s she'd be relegated to female roles in period pictures.

You can check out Brian's review here.

You can order Whose Baby Is In The Classroom? on DVD here.