Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tropicana Interlude with Lily Ho

Lily Ho's car races through the beautiful Singapore countryside and the actress then literally leaps out of her convertible roadster and rushes into the airport to greet Jian Ren (Jimmy Lin Chong). Lily Ho's Yong Lan scrunches up her nose in a cute gesture as the couple race to embrace again.

It's not mere starpower at work here as Lily is dressed in a shockingly bright yellow outfit and scarf and Jimmy is wearing a white sort-of-Nehru jacket. The rest of the people in the airport are just mere mortals, extras in ordinary gray clothes, as these two film deities glide through their world.

Perhaps I am being a bit dramatic but, really, this film is about starpower and not much else. Read on.

1969's Tropicana Interlude is like drinking a Pina Colada on a beach. I think I watched this the first time on a winter's day and it certainly made me feel better at the time.

Jian Ren is returning to his parents' ridiculously splendid mansion in Singapore and the guy can barely wait to jump into the pool -- something he does before even greeting his mother.

It seems that Jian Ren has returned from a trip to Italy with an intention of becoming a musician and not going into business with his family.

Of course, his father (Liu Kei) and mother (Ouyang Sha-Fei) disapprove.

Later that night, there's a garden party with Lily Ho's Yong Lan and the singing starts again, this time with the whole group of teenagers and young adults joining in.

I guess now's as good a time as any to say that Jimmy Lin Chong is annoying. Even for 1969, he's a bit insufferable. I don't think I'm the first one to compare him to John Davidson.

But for this kind of nonsense, he's okay. After all, it's Lily Ho most people want to see.

And during the pictured beach idyll -- where Lily Ho looks fantastic I might add but probably don't need to -- she tells the guy that she's going to get him a job as a tour guide for boss Sun (Paul Wei Ping Ao).

After playing some slimeballs, Paul Wei is pretty funny here, turning his general unctuousness into comedy for a change.

Jian Ren's first job as a tour guide is for Miss Dong Xian Yun (Essie Lin Chia), a schoolteacher in charge of a few teenagers including Lily Li as Li Ai Rong.

As Jian Ren takes the girls through a museum, it's clear that Li Ai Rong is going to be the petulant one and cause trouble for the tour guide.

For fans of the Shaw starlets, this film is like crack; Essie Lin, Lily Ho, and an uber-cute Lily Li; maybe it's a weakness of character on my part, but the more the teen acted like a bitch in her little cute 1960s outfits, the more I was totally smitten with her.

But, this was a film from a different era and a bitch in a frothy 1969 comedy is a far cry from the Kim Kardashians and Lindsay Lohans of today's world, eh?

So, after a cookout on the rocks on the beach, the gang goes swimming -- no waiting an hour after eating to swim? -- but Jian Ren is lured behind a big rock by Li Ai Rong. Lily Li reveals a two-piece bathing suit and tries to get the tour guide to help her button up the back. Then she's throwing her arms around the guy's neck but Jimmy Lin Chong is loyal to Lily Ho and so rebuffs the 19-year-old (though Lily Li is probably playing someone a tiny bit younger).

Soon, there's a big, comical fight in a nightclub and Jian Ren is in prison.

It's then that the comedy turns to the unintentional sort as the still sharply dressed Jimmy Lin Chong begins to serenade his fellow prisoners -- there's even a guy playing a harmonica somewhere! -- and they get all misty-eyed for home.

Even in 1969 Singapore, a guy thrown into the clink in a sky-blue polyester suit and white turtleneck sweater would get his ass beat pretty quick I think.

Enough of my comedy. He gets bailed out by his father who is not too happy at this turn of events and Lily Ho is there with the family at the jail in a new outfit.

Jian Ren takes Miss Dong and her teenagers to Malaysia and the sequence is delightful. Really, it's nothing more than a very blatant commercial to boost tourism in Malaysia but the cast manages to cover so many famous sites that it's hard to not appreciate the scene.

Tropicana Interlude is slight, silly, and dated but those are not necessarily bad things; it's a diversion from ordinary life for 90-or-so minutes and Lily's fashions are a retro blast.

And I'm sure someone out there likes Jimmy Lin Chong, right? Right?

Check out Brian's review of this film as well.

You can order Tropicana Interlude on DVD here.