Photo: screenshot of the movie’s poster published on Sina Weibo
A newly released movie in the Chinese mainland is being accused of false advertising by moviegoers, many of whom are calling to boycott the film, because famous Chinese actor Shen Teng, one of the film’s major selling points, only appears in pictures throughout the film.
Word of mouth concerning comedy Overall Planning collapsed as soon as it hit cinemas on Friday after audiences found that Shen, a well-known Chinese comedian who appeared prominently in the film’s posters, does not physically appear in the film.
More strictly speaking, Shen’s image appears in the movie but his character is an alien from “Paper Planet,” so his character throughout the film only appears as static pictures of Shen making various expressions or poses.
In audience reviews of the film, many moviegoers said that the main reason that they went to see the film was for Shen, whose advertising had led them to believe he would be a major part of the film. But after watching the whole movie, they only ended up seeing dozens of photos of Shen.
Claims of misleading advertising are not the only complain moviegoers have against the film, which has been criticized for having a boring storyline and lackluster comedic elements.
Thousands of netizens have given the film one out of five on China’s major media review platform Douban, leading to the film earning a 3/10 overall rating.
“It is my fault. I shouldn’t have bought tickets as soon as I saw Shen Teng’s name on the movie poster. The film was so boring but I forced myself to wait to the end to see if the real Shen would appear for at least a second, but he did not,” one netizen commented on Douban.
Many who have seen the film are taking to China’s Twitter-like Sina Weibo to call on others to boycott the film and not to contribute to the movie’s box office.
The film has grossed less than 20 million yuan ($3.06 million) after six days.
Liu Junmeng, director of the movie, issued an apology on his Sina Weibo account on Sunday, saying that he told the marketing team for the film not to show Shen so prominently for several times but they neglected his suggestions, most likely out of a desire for high box-office returns.
The apology was later deleted, but its screenshots have gone viral on Sina Weibo.
“This behavior not only ruins word of mouth for the movie, but impacts Shen’s reputation. I hope Shen can say something and will not allow other people to use his fame to do something like this again, otherwise he will be hated by the public,” a fan of the actor living in Taiyuan, North China’s Shanxi Province, told the Global Times on Wednesday.
Law experts have weighed in on the controversy saying that the studio behind the film could be sued for false advertising if they claimed Shen would star in the movie but actually does not appear.
Shi Wenxue, film critic based in Beijing, told the Global Times on Wednesday that Shen’s character needs more discussion and it cannot confirm that the advertising violated the law. “But the movie has recieved so many negative reviews, which is a kind of punishment.”