Fantastic Fest Review: LEE’S ADVENTURE is Fast, Fun, and Fantastic

Time travel, robot hands, dinosaurs, Osama Bin Laden and videogames. And it might make you cry.

A lot of discussion after my Fantastic Fest pals and I exited Lee's Adventure revolved around its extremely derivative nature. The film has the kind of hyperactive form-shifting and outside the cinematic line coloring that always makes people scream Scott Pilgrim (as though that film were a totally original monolith rather than just a really great example of modern youthful filmmaking), but I heard names like Fight Club bandied about as well. The question was whether or not Lee's Adventure had enough of its own story to justify all that cinematic lifting. The popular opinion was no. Mine was yes.

Staring Jaycee Chan, the nearly identical son of Jackie Chan, Lee's Adventure has all kinds of weird slapstick science fiction stuff going on, but deep down it is a love story focused on regret. It achieves that story well enough to justify its methodology. Despite the obvious video game stuff, the closest counterpart for this film is not Scott Pilgrim but Futurama. It has the same openness to casually taking crazy sci-fi ideas even further than their logical conclusions. I found myself energized by its joy, but only so much as I cared about its center relationship, which turned out to be a fair amount.

Chan plays Li Xian Ji, a guy who suffers from a disease that makes him experience time slower than the rest of us. While such an illness certainly has benefits, it also alienates him from others and makes him a bit of an outcast. He then meets a beautiful young woman who also suffers from slowed down living. Totally in sync, they can share their unique perspective on the world and grow together as a result. We understand her importance in his life more so than in other romances. So when he loses her, we also gain a deeper understanding of his pain.

Like Superman, Li Xian Ji wishes to turn back time and save his girlfriend. To do this he must play a lot of video games. And sell his hands. And kill Osama Bin Laden. And a bunch of other stuff. Don't worry about the logic.

Lee's Adventure never stops for air, so it takes a bit of energy just to watch it. The inventiveness and humor level on display is quite high, however. The story may revolve around regret, but this is not a regretful film. You can ponder the sadness behind Lee's obsession, but that's up to you. The film never forces it.

I can also see a bit of social commentary regarding Asian youth here as well. According to every goddamn person I met there, Taiwan has the lowest birthrate in the world. Young men in Japan have largely lost interest in dating. I can't imagine Hong Kong differs much in this regard. Like a bunch of Michael Jacksons, many Asian kids lack what we could recognize as a healthy childhood and as a result seem to be refusing adulthood when it comes knocking. Lee's illness is at its core antisocial and there are very few characters beside him in the film. When he loses his lady, he turns to frequent, frantic videogame playing (intentionally shot from behind to resemble masturbation) to save the day. Not to spoil the film, but it's not until he puts down the controller and lets himself age that he succeeds.

But that's better saved for a later discussion. For now, Lee's Adventure is a hyperactive but sweet film with lots of cinematic tricks up its sleeve and a healthy amount of humor (the animated Bin Laden sequence had me laughing from beginning to end). It's too small to ever be anyone's favorite film, but I liked it a lot, and it's definitely provides an ample showcase for Jaycee Chan, whom I hope to see a lot more of soon.

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