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"Year of the Fish"

Directed by David Kaplan.
Written by David Kaplan.
Starring An Nguyen, Tsai Chin, Ken Leung and Randall Duk Kim.
Release Year:  ?

Review Date:  1/31/07


Rotoscoping animation films are curious to me, because the effects of this style don't really look "animated" to me.  In fact, "Year of the Fish" is that rare animated film that might have been better off NOT animating anything...nothing about its story is out of the ordinary, and save for a couple of characters who only exist in the lead's imagination, the animation almost gets in the way of the storytelling.

A modern-day take of both a 9th-century Chinese tale & the classic story "Cinderella", "Year of the Fish" is about a just-off-the-boat Chinese immigrant named Ye Xian (An Nguyen), who is taken in by an evil "beauty salon" owner named Mrs. Su (Tsai Chin).  Ye Xian is forced into massage parlor labor by Mrs. Su, and when she refuses to suck off her patrons (no, I'm not kidding, this is the kind of language we get with this modern-day Cinderella!), Mrs. Su forces Ye Xian to do menial tasks around the parlor, like scrubbing toilets, washing floors, and making grocery runs.  But, with the help of a mysterious old woman that only Ye Xian can see (this old woman and a few other characters are played by the great Randall Duk Kim) and a Chinese suitor who plays the accordian (veteran character actor Ken Leung), we know that Ye Xian is going to make it!

The acting in "Year of the Fish" is wildly uneven--our lead, Ye Xian, is no good and Leung feels fake, but Duk Kim is great and Chin is out of this world as the over-the-top evil family matriarch.  Throughout the film, I found myself not only impeded but also uninterested in the animation playing out onscreen; of course, without this animation, "Year of the Fish" really has nothing going for it.  Much like "A Scanner Darkly", "Year of the Fish" looks great on paper but its execution was ho-hum.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09