New Year holiday comedy dominates box office with workplace reflection
Published: Jan 10, 2024 10:45 PM
A screencut of the film <em>Johnny Keep Walking</em>

A screencut of the film Johnny Keep Walking!

The film Johnny Keep Walking! has continued to dominate the Chinese mainland box office after the New Year holiday season. With a cumulative box office of 550 million yuan ($70 million) and an expected final box office of over 1.2 billion yuan, the film's popularity and positive word-of-mouth continues to grow. Behind this success lies the creators' ability to accurately hit the emotions of workers.

The film tells the story of Hu Jianlin, a bench worker in a factory, who is mistakenly transferred to the company's headquarters and given a position in the Human Resources Department. Hu, who named himself as Johnny in accordance with the company's culture of requiring its staff members to have an English name to cope with international enterprises, receives promotions in a short time, while Ma Jie, or Magic, a diligent HR manager, is a "compliant" employee, and Pan Yiran, or Penny, is outspoken and rebellious.

Using the internet company as a model, the film employs comedic techniques to depict the funny and bittersweet stories of workplaces, hitting the funny bone and pain points in the audience's hearts. Although the film may not depict the real work of most people, it has resonated with many audiences, providing collective emotional relief for office workers.

Many classic lines in the film that poignantly mock the poisonous workplace culture such as "Overtime is a way to demonstrate your work attitude" have brought about many laughs from the audience. 

The film also prompts deeper reflection on the operations within big companies. In the past few decades of economic development and fierce market competition, should we prioritize fairness or efficiency driven by interests? Why is workplace management unable to curb negative culture? How should office workers navigate perplexing workplace culture?

In the film's ending, the three main characters expressed the voice of ordinary office workers through a rap performance. Just as the film director Dong Runnian said in media interview, "Life can become better, and through our efforts, we can change our destinies. This is worth all of us rebuilding our confidence."
The film yearns for a workplace culture of equality and respect. Brave people are those who, even after seeing the truth of the world, strive to see its brilliance and love it.

The author is an editor with the Global Times.