SC reviews: The Fantastic Water Babes

By Shu ChiangMovies - 13 July 2010 5:00 PM | Updated 6:09 PM

SC reviews: The Fantastic Water Babes

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Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5

Two years later than expected, having been waylaid by the Edison Chen affair – this Gillian Chung vehicle – or should I say sputtering waterboat –  has ultimately not been worth the wait.

It is billed as a comedy, and when it does make you laugh on rare occasions, it is the sort of infuriating laugh that upsets you, because you have laughed in spite of yourself and despite how lame the efforts at humour were.

(It's like laughing at a Pauly Shore or Jimmy Fallon gag; you'll hate yourself afterwards for not being able to resist that low-brow rubbish.)

I've been told that Jeffrey Lau, the director of this mess, has a tendency to mix fantastical elements with realistic ones, presumably colouring outside the lines in pursuit of a laugh, no matter how jarring or ridiculous the situation may be.

Let the record show that I have nothing against bucking convention, telling a story in an original way, and breaking the rules to mine comic gold. Give me some of Stephen Chow's good ol' moleitau (makes no sense) comedy any day.

But Lau's latest, after Just Another Pandora's Boxin March, is a start-stop, schizophrenic, capricious and unpredictable scatter-shot affair, where a relentless flow of slapstick and infantile jokes are hurled at the audience at a high clip.

It is a pain to sit through, the visual gags as effective as a six-year-old child pulling faces in front of you for 90 minutes – it feels more like two hours of misery.

The plot, that I managed to surmise from the 'wreckage', has Chung playing Gill, who enlists the help of a jock (Alex Fong), in order to win a swim-meet bet, and take revenge on a mean girl who had stolen her ex-boyfriend and humiliated her in public.

'Enlist' becomes 'kidnap' as the jock named Chi, played by real-life swim-champ-turned-singer-actor Fong, proves to be a self-centred fake.

In desperation, Gill coerces him to stay on her native Cheung Chau, an historic off-shore island of Hong Kong, under the guard of a kooky, unbalanced fellow islander (Stephen Fung). She also forces Chi to train her, while observing his charms disdainfully from a distance.

Somewhere in the midst of all the tomfoolery, what with Gill's friends (including lollipop girl Eva Huang of Kungfu Hustle fame) falling over Chi, and the townsfolk perpetuating acts of cartoon violence and lunacy upon him, an unconvincing love story develops.

Somehow, Chi realises the folly of his ways, and Gill embarks on her act of vengeance unaware of a mystical power she may possess. There is even a final grand romantic gesture that involves Chi pouring yellow paint all over parts of Cheung Chau. (If you find this review a head-scratcher so far, imagine what the movie must be like.)

In truth, this is a movie that has to be seen to be believed. One supposes the spirit behind Lau's unconventional approach is laudable, to a certain extent; after all, cookie-cutter romantic comedies are arguably the most common duds in cinema.

But the end-result here is mind-numbingly poor, with the actors required to do little more than effect a series of expressions rather than act, and the journey from start to finish bumpier than a rush-hour taxi ride.

The burning question one has now is, in the intervening two years, how did no studio executive watch the footage and demand re-shoots? Unlike the problems that plague this film, this is truly a mystery.


About Yong Shu Chiang
Yong Shu Chiang, otherwise known as SC, is a freelance editor and writer. He reviewed movies for Juice magazine when he was in college, and was the resident film reviewer for Today Newspaper from 2003 to 2005. He has also reviewed movies for Prime Time Morning on Channel NewsAsia.

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