“Like many of Johnnie To‘s comedies, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart was a commercial hit in Asia and largely ignored by even the Western critics who embrace him,” writes Jake Cole at the House Next Door, “yet its gorgeous, anamorphic compositions and sly comment on the ever-increasing commodification of dating and relationships made it one of To’s better works. Its sequel, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2, however, is, along with 2008’s melodrama Linger, the worst film To has made since founding his independent studio Milkyway. Where the love triangle between analyst Zixin (Gao Yuanyuan), boob-obsessed broker Shen-ren (Louis Koo), and directionless but kind architect Qihong (Daniel Wu) previously sparked with rank masculine competition, this sequel jumbles the stakes and loses its drive, not least because, while Shen-ren still pines for Zixin, Qihong toils away on the mainland completely divorced from the story. In his stead, Zixin’s brother, Paul (Vic Chou), indirectly tussles with Shen-ren for the affections of Zixin’s new boss, Yang Yang (Miriam Yeung).”
At the AV Club, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky is “disappointed, but not dispirited… Though it boasts the kind of zany plotting familiar from To’s other collaborations with screenwriter and occasional co-director Wai Ka-Fai, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart lacks the firm sense of form that has long distinguished the work of its director and his production company… Working in digital for the first time—and without his longtime cinematographer, Cheng Siu-keung—To has made an uncharacteristically flat-looking movie. Still, mediocre movies by great filmmakers tend to have one or more great sequences; in this case, it’s a comic set-piece in which widespread flight cancellations cause all of a philandering executive’s stewardess mistresses to show up at his office at once.”
“Lubitsch or Hawks could have scarcely improved upon it,” agrees Variety‘s Scott Foundas, referring to the sequence. “To be sure, To has learned a lot from Hollywood’s golden-age ‘comedies of remarriage,’ except that his paper-thin protagonists change their romantic minds so often (and with such little prompting) that, by the end, it seems almost random who chooses to end up with whom. But oh, what an ending it is: a chaotic race to the altar that plays like a cross between The Graduate (complete with soundalike Simon-and-Garfunkel score) and a mountaineering melodrama.”
Fernando F. Croce in the Notebook: “I liked how in his article on Romancing in Thin Air, Adam Cook compared Johnnie To to Howard Hawks in his ability to hang on to and expand his complex visual style while hopping between thrillers and romcoms. So his latest… plays like Man’s Favorite Sport? to the Bringing Up Baby of To’s 2011 original, initially disappointing yet fascinatingly riddled with the filmmaker’s concerns, less sequel or remake than perhaps self-re-examination…. Farcical misunderstandings, fantasy selves, love messages written on corporate glass. Also: cleavage-triggered nosebleeds, a leading man constantly referred to as ‘the asshole,’ spit-takes, slushy ballads, electrocutions, pastry-throwing, and, why the hell not, a clairvoyant octopus. It’s reliably strange, and a bit stolid.”
“Every once in a while, the film’s effects team will make the footsteps of finance drones sound like the men marching into the triad battles in To’s Election movies,” writes Wesley Morris at Grantland. “But mostly the movie has a blissed-out, pro-corporate badness. It feels like a commercial for both a soft drink and executive privilege. It also really believes in its own randomness, like when an evening between the financial titan and the designer culminates in rescuing a game-predicting octopus from becoming dinner. Naturally, the octupus can also predict which man to marry. I’m not kidding. But To is. At least, I think so.”
Update, 9/12: “The guy in the Maserati and the girl in the Ferrari chat while speeding down the highway, the cute boy turns out to live on a spanking new yacht, and almost everybody works for major investment firms when they’re not out sampling the delights of expensive restaurants and getting drunk on fine wine,” notes Deborah Young in the Hollywood Reporter. “Whether the screenplay… is supposed to be ironically over-the-top, or a sop to China’s new or wannabe millionaires, is not clear. It seems reminiscent of Hollywood in the Depression-era Thirties, when the Gatsby-style life-style of the very rich became part of a collective dream.”
Update, 9/14: “Here we are again, talking To.” That’s Adam Cook, opening up a conversation with Danny Kasman in the Notebook about DGBMH2.
Update, 11/16: Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2 “features multiple mistaken identities, overlapping love triangles, plenty of spit-takes, a food fight, an accidental electrocution, a psychic octopus, and a character who gets a severe nosebleed every time he ogles a bustline,” writes Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the AV Club. “It’s deliberately silly and soppy and so convoluted that a point-by-point synopsis would resemble a cat’s cradle—and yet, somehow, it’s also one of the squarest, stiffest things Johnnie To has directed since the 1990s.”