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(Hana yori dango: Fainaru) (Japanese)

  Publicity Stills of
"Boys Over Flowers The Movie"
(Courtesy of Cathay-Keris Films)

Genre: Romance/Comedy
Director: Yasuharu Ishii
Cast: Mao Inoue, Jun Matsumoto, Shun Oguri, Shota Matsuda, Tsuyoshi Abe RunTime: 2 hrs 21 mins
Released By: Cathay-Keris Films & InnoForm Media
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.hanadan-final.jp/

Opening Day: 4 September 2008


"Super poor" Tsukushi Makino, finds herself attending the prestigious Eitoku High School and immersed in a world that is not her own. But she eventually falls in with a legendary foursome of ultra-privileged boys dubbed "F4" (for "Flower 4"). They consist of Tsukasa Domyoji, Rui Hanazawa, Sojiro Nishikado and Akira Mimasaka.

Tsukushi was initially in love with Rui, however, F4 leader Tsukasa soon wins her heart and proposed to her during the senior prom. After graduation, Tsukasa announced to the world that he is marrying Tsukushi. Tsukasa and Tsukushi are entrusted with a precious Domyoji family heirloom; a tiara “The Smile of Venus”. The gift is from Tsukasa's mother, who once was against their marriage.

In the night, a robber breaks into their room and disappears with the tiara. Losing the tiara ultimately means losing Tsukushi. Tsukasa must put marriage plans on hold until he can recover the heirloom. The trail to recover the tiara believed to bring its owner everlasting love and happiness takes Tsukushi and Tsukasa halfway around the world and back, to Las Vegas, Hong Kong and other far-flung destinations. And what about the rest of the F4 gang, who have seemingly gone their own ways since high school?

Movie Review:

Going into Hana Yori Dango: Final, you will belong to either one of two camps. Which camp you belong to, ultimately, will affect how much you enjoy this movie spinoff of a popular TV drama series.

For fans of the TBS drama based on Yoko Kamio’s bestselling shojo manga series, Hana Yori Dango: Final is probably an eagerly anticipated chance to revisit the lives of Tsukusi Makino and the Flower 4 (dubbed "F4"), as well as many other characters of the series, four years after it ended.

For the uninitiated, this movie is best appreciated as a date movie about true love transcending the class divisions of wealth in society. See, Hana Yori Dango: The TV Series introduced Tsukusi as a working-class girl attending an elite prep school called Eitoku Academy. Known as the 'weed' of the school, she finds herself at odds with the clique of four guys from rich, high society families, which form the Flower 4.

The leader of the Flower 4 is a hot-headed guy named Domyouji Tsukasa, the son of one of the wealthiest families in Japan. Tsukasa takes an interest in Tsukusi, but she is turned off by his behaviour initially. Gradually, Tsukusi comes to see Tsukasa as fiercely loyal and devoted in his affection towards her and they begin a courtship that forms the basis of the story in this movie.

And so the movie takes off with the impending marriage between Tsukasa and Tsukusi. Tsukasa’s mother presents the couple with the 'Smile Of Venus', a precious family heirloom which is stolen that very night and this disrupting Tsukasa and Tsukusi’s marriage plans. The search for the stolen tiara leads them to destinations such as America and Hong Kong and also reunites the F4 who join them in their search.

For the most part, however, "rich-guy" Tsukasa and "poor-girl" Tsukusi are on their own. In fact, the movie seems content to rehash the running theme of the TV series about the obstacles and challenges two people from different social strata face as they navigate their course of love. While this is familiar ground for fans, do prepare to be disappointed if you expect to see more of the other three members of F4, Rui Hanazawa, Mimasaka Akira, and Nishikado Sojiro. Their combined screen time constitutes less than one-third of the film’s bloated 131-minutes running time.

Pity then, for fans and non-fans alike, because the chemistry and banter between the members of F4 are one of the best things the movie has going for it. After two seasons, the actors are by now well acquainted with each other and it shows by the ease with which they bring a distinctive flair and personality to all their characters. Jun Matsumoto, in particular, plays Tsukasa capably and his sincere performance makes the sometimes cringe-worthy lines in the movie more palatable.

But much as Jun and Mao Inoue (who plays Tsukusi) are likeable actors, the story lets them down by drawing out some of its scenes for too long. Especially towards the middle, the cross-continent pursuit for the tiara does feel longer than it should be.

Non-fans will also likely feel themselves frustrated by the sketchy relationships between some of the other characters in the story that are hinted at but never fleshed out. And therein lies the challenge of a TV drama-turned-feature-length movie crossover. Unlike its more successful peers Hero and the more recent Sex And The City: The Movie, Hana Yori Dango: Final fails to trapeze the balance between pleasing fans and providing enough back-stories not to frustrate non-fans.

In the end, Hana Yori Dango: Final gives fans the happily-ever after ending that has eluded Tsukasa and Tsukusi for two seasons. But to those not acquainted with the series, there are enough bits of comedy and drama to entertain but not quite enough to win them over as converts.

Movie Rating:

(If you're a fan, you probably lap this up. If you're not, it's just a passable entertaining date movie)

Review by Gabriel Chong


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