Bad Movie Night – “The Children of Huang Shi”

We watched this the other night, and it’s a complete piece of crap, but honestly I loved every minute of it. It’s about an Englishman, George Hogg, who was in China during the Japanese invasion before World War II, who ends up running an orphanage for young boys. It’s based on a true story.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers plays Charles Hogg, and Radha Mitchell plays Lee Pearson, a nurse of sorts. Leaving aside the fact that the movie white-washes Hoggs’ commitment to Communism, this film is marred by some of the worst dialog I’ve ever heard, and Meyers’ delivery of such claptrap as though it was Hamlet’s soliloquy is howlingly bad.

It reminded me of the animated Beowulf, that I saw the last night I was in Berlin. I should have seen it in German, which would have improved on the frightful script. “Huang Shi” would have been improved by being unintelligible. Not the least because the movie is visually beautfiul, and like every movie I’ve seen that features it, makes me want to visit rural China. The acting of the Chinese boys is so much better than the Hollywood stars they surround, not that Meyers and Mitchell are given much to work with.

The best part of the movie for me was the end, which features interviews with some of the boys from Hogg’s school. Their real-life admiration and gratitude to a man who saved their lives only underlines the tin ear of this movie’s writers. And it underlines what a great story the movie has to tell. Too bad it tells a different story entirely, and does so badly.

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