In Mandarin with English & Chinese subtitles
Director: Jeff Lau
Cast: Gillian Chung, Alex Fong, Eva Huang Shengyi,
Chrissie Chow, Tian Liang, Simon Lui, Stephen Fung
RunTime: 1 hr 29 mins
Released By: GV & Scorpio East Pictures
Opening Day: 15 July 2010
Many myths surround the ancient island of Cheung Chau. Locals believe
that a Water Deity watches over the island, taking the form of a handsome youth.
One islander, Gill, claims to have encountered him during her suicide attempt after
being dumped by her boyfriend. Gill is convinced that she has been given special
powers after being rescued. Afraid that she is suffering from head trauma, her
loyal friends Jade, Blossom and Mini-Blossom reluctantly play along with her
Believing in winning the forthcoming swim meet against her romantic rival Fay will
also win her boyfriend back, Gill kidnaps champion swimmer Chi to train her from
barely able to swim to master the art of competitive swimming. She imprisons him in
the home of eccentric islander Harley. With no release in sight, Chi unwillingly
starts to train Gill and her friends. Using unconventional methods, Chi soon boosts
Gill’s confidence, and at the same time, the two start to fall for each other.
The day of the swim meet comes; the Gill’s team is trailing far behind in the race.
Suddenly the Water Deity manifests itself in front of Gill. Will divine
intervention help her win the swim competition, overcome her insecurities and find
There’s just nothing fantastic about writer/director Jeff Lau’s new romantic comedy- which is probably better known as the Gillian Chung movie whose release got delayed for two years after the infamous Edison Chen sex scandal. Yes, sitting on the shelves of Emperor Motion Pictures, it has finally seen the light of day- though judging by how shockingly inept it is, it would probably have done better to remain in cold storage.
To be fair, the movie begins promisingly enough by introducing us to village girl Gillian (yes, they couldn’t come up with a more inventive name for Gillian Chung’s character) raised as an orphan by the closely knit Cheung Chau community. After being dumped by her boyfriend in front of an audience of her schoolmates, Gillian tries to commit suicide but miraculously survives- and thanks to some local legend about the Water Deity, she believes she has acquired supernatural powers.
In order not to make her more upset, the rest of the community decides to indulge in her fantasy, so they simply do what she says to their best abilities. Along a crowded street market, one man faints on command, another eats a strewn packet of noodles on the ground and yet another pregnant woman tries to suddenly go into labour- talk about community spirit. This is also one of the film’s funniest sequences, and if you don’t think you’re likely to find such manner of slapstick humourous, then you might as well skip this altogether.
Those who think they may appreciate some ‘mo lei tau’ comedy courtesy of “The Eagle Shooting Heroes”, “A Chinese Odyssey” and the most recent “Just Another Pandora’s Box” director Jeff Lau can probably stick around for the first half of the movie. Though nowhere near as funny as these other movies, Lau still makes use of the Cheung Chau setting to derive some good-natured humour that you’ll find yourself chuckling to.
Most of these consist of the fish-out-of-water situations that champion swimmer Chi Yuen (Alex Fong) finds himself in after being kidnapped by Gillian to teach her swimming. Why? So she can get back at her romantic rival in the upcoming “Asia Water Babes Swimming Competition”. It doesn’t sound particularly convincing, nor does the movie make any attempt to make it any less ludicrous than it sounds, but to nitpick at such details in a Jeff Lau film is really missing the point.
Still, what generosity one affords to suspend his disbelief is quickly exhausted in the second half of the movie. It is as if Jeff Lau has suddenly lost interest in the various characters, supporting characters and subplots he took effort to set up in the first half of the movie. Indeed, this second half is no more than a lazy and half-hearted attempt at milking every cliché one can think of in romantic comedies, albeit at twice the speed and not even half the finesse.
But what really takes the cake is a messy, overlong and nonsensical climax filled with laughable special effects, WTF moments and an out-of-nowhere ecological message. Can it get any more slapdash than this? I think not- especially when an indoor swimming pool suddenly turns into an ocean filled with corals, octopuses, stingrays and jellyfish which are on closer look just trash floating underwater whose shapes resemble these creatures. Confused already?
You’re certainly not alone- as lead star Gillian Chung seems equally perplexed. At least in the first half of the movie, Gillian exudes an easy charm that fits her character quite well; but in the abysmal latter half, Gillian just looks puzzled or bewildered, probably a good indication of how she was feeling while filming. Still, Gillian fares much better than her co-stars- the once-national swimmer Alex Fong is embarrassingly wooden most of the time, while Stephen Fung makes a forgettable special appearance playing an autistic adult living under the shadow of his father’s demise.
The real tragedy however is how writer/director Jeff Lau could have done such an appallingly bad movie; while the impending tragedy is how this supposed comeback vehicle for Gillian Chung will likely backfire because of the demerits of the film. Yes there’s nothing fantastic about “The Fantastic WaterBabes”; there’s not even anything mediocre about it- it deserves to be shelved not because of Gillian but because of how awful it is.
(Not at all fantastic- this Jeff Lau film is easily one of his worst ever)
Review by Gabriel Chong