Shanghai Calling is the quintessential “stranger in a strange land”
 romantic comedy: a foreigner, most often an American, is relocated to
 an exotic location like Italy or, in this case, China, and suffers 
severe culture shock. We have seen this countless times before in 
such films as Lost in Translation with Bill Murray, A Good Year with 
Russell Crowe, and Under the Tuscan Sun with Diane Lane. After some 
misfortunes, they eventually begin to acclimate to their new
 surroundings with the help of a few friendly locals and discover how
 well they truly fit. It’s a simple plotline, one that unfortunately
 Shanghai Calling does little to reinvent.

The movie follows a lawyer, Sam (Daniel Henney), after he
 unwillingly agrees to oversee the Shanghai branch of his law firm. He 
expects to be named partner, but goes to China instead. Sam is out
 of his element as soon as he steps off the plane. He has bubbly
 relocation specialist Amanda (Happy EndingsEliza Coupe) to assist 
him in the transition, but he’s stubborn. When faced with the
 unfamiliar language, Sam consistently uses the excuse that he’s 
American, as if that would make communication any easier. He settles 
in Americatown, the Westernized section of Shanghai, in a luxury 
apartment that’s still under construction and which boasts a live-in
 nanny – Sam learns this the awkward way after he comes out of the 
shower. Around his neighborhood he meets bartender Donald (Bill
 Paxton), a fellow American who is the unofficial mayor of Americatown, 
Brad (Sean Gallagher), another American intent on bagging Chinese 
babes, and Fang Fang (Zhu Zhu), his love-struck legal assistant. What
 drives the film is Sam’s budding relationship with Amanda and his 
struggle to stop a wealthy manufacturer from producing inventor Marcus
 Groff’s (Alan Ruck) new and improved iPhone-like creation. Sam's 
friends advise him to enlist the help of a masked vigilante named
 Awesome Wang. Sam is uncertain, but after a series of mishaps, 
including buying out entire stores for their phone supply and using a fake 
lawyer, he finally surrenders and calls up Awesome Wang (Geng Le), who 
reveals himself as a mild-mannered geek with extensive connections.
 Together, Sam and Awesome Wang work to cease production on the phones
 before any more can be released.

Shanghai Calling is a cute, silly comedy. Henney holds his own as 
Sam, though most of the characters aren’t particularly memorable, 
perhaps because they lack interesting backstories…or perhaps they 
aren’t intended to be indelible. Brad, for instance, seems at first to have a
 greater role as comic relief, though he pops in and out too many times
 to fully connect with the audience. Donald, at one point in the film,
 loses the race to become official mayor of Americatown. Sam and 
Amanda are shocked by the vote, but should the viewer be too? The 
film offers nice shots of the city’s energy and daily routine, though 
I still felt removed from it when it ended. The city of Shanghai is as much
 a character in the movie as the other actors, but it wasn’t as compelling or fleshed out
 as previously expected. And so, when Sam finally begins to embrace the city, the
 viewer isn't given enough reason to warm up to it too.

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