This Chinese comedy “Pancake Man” is a film directed by its star, about an actor making a film about a superhero.
While only sporadically funny, the film has nevertheless attracted record audiences in China, with a reported 10-day gross of $139 million since its July 24 opening for producer-distributor Sohu TV and around $400,000 on 14 screens in the U.S. China’s unofficial “blackout” of Hollywood studio films for a few weeks this summer has also helped Pancake Man become the second-highest-opening Chinese film in the country’s history.
Slight of build and plain-looking — but sporting trendy glasses, a moussed undercut and hipster outfits — protagonist Da Peng is a beloved TV star who sometimes makes very stupid decisions. One night after pledging his undying love to his fiancee, he acts on an impulse to hit the clubs, and is not only thrown out on the street, but manages to brawl with a mob and get captured on video kissing a random woman. Oh, and that priceless diamond ring he bought for his fiancee was eaten by a golden retriever.
Da’s career hits the skids, his fiancee stops calling, and he’s in hock to mafioso Wang Hai (Liang Chao), so the desperate star decides to claw his way back to the top by shooting a superhero movie starring himself. The project is so low-budget that Da has to assemble an all-volunteer crew, and the only way they can get Hong Kong celebrities like actressSandra Ng and director Eric Tsang to appear in the film is to kidnap them on the street.
Actor-director Da Peng became a star with a hit web series called Diors Man, a Saturday Night Live-style sketch comedy show hosted by Sohu TV (the company that has released Pancake Man in Chinese theaters)