American Fable is ambitious, maybe too much so sometimes, but there's an intense pleasure in the boldness of the film's style.
Xu Lang, a stiff corporate executive with shaved head, pressed shirt, and shiny silver briefcase, has invented a chemical that enhances fossil fuels. Add a few drops of this “Supergas” to a quarter cup of oil, and the oil expands to fill its container. Now, he heads from China to Thailand to find his boss and get approval to further develop and market his miracle compound. Because this is a screwball comedy, his polished veneer will fall away as he's pushed to his wits' end.
Xu (played by director Xu Zheng) faces opposition from a smarmy, black-clad corporate rival named Gao (Huang Bo), with giant hipster glasses and alternative rock hairstyle, who wants to sell Supergas to the French. Meanwhile, Xu's dedication to work has ruined his family life. His wife wants to leave him, his grade-school daughter hates him, and he has only two days before he must return to China for divorce proceedings.
Xu's trip is plagued with technical problems that prevent him from finding his boss’ exact location. For most of the film, he only knows that his boss is on a retreat in a Buddhist temple. In Thailand, where there are thousands of such temples. Gao, however, manages to remain on Xu’s tail because of a large GPS tracker he plants in Xu’s cell phone. With access to such technology, you'd think Xu could contact his secretary back in China and get his administrator’s location, but that would be too reasonable for this movie.
These elements could make for a strong dramatic movie. That is, until Xu gets on the plane and meets Wang Bao (Wang Baoqiang), a buffoon with a bleached bowl haircut and a big heart, who manages to ruin every moment of hope with his simple-minded mishaps. Wang Bao carries a cactus, a camera, a bucket list of activities, a travel diary, and a photo of his “wife,” Chinese superstar Fan Bingbing, clipped from the newspaper. He speaks with love about his mother’s life lessons, though she seems have nothing profound to say.