The Shopaholics (2006) / Comedy-Romance
aka Jui oi nui yun kau muk kong
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but would probably be PG for some language
Running Time: 91 min.
Cast: Cecilia Cheung, Lau Ching Wan, Jordan Chan, Ella Koon, Paula Tsui
Director: Wai Ka-Fai (w/ Johnny To)
Screenplay: Wai Ka-Fai
A major disappointment from one of Hong Kong's most prolific directors, Shopaholics sees Wai Ka-Fai (Fulltime Killer, Love on a Diet) crafting another zany screwball romantic comedy, similar in execution to the fluffy and mirthful fare released by Hollywood in the 1950s. Working with longtime creative partner Johnny To (Yesterday Once More, Running Out of TIme 2) , this marks their twelfth project together, and easily their worst, as scene after scene fly by without anything truly funny or interesting happening. To waste are rock-solid performances by the always enchanting Cecilia Cheung (The White Dragon, Lost in Time) and Lau Ching Wan (The Attractive One, Victim), both of whom give the film their all. Alas, as hard as they try, Ka-Fai's light-as-a-feather screenplay is wafer thin and kiddie pool shallow, with vibrant color schemes and quirky synth tunes so cloying, you'll probably gag from the over-saturation of pastel cheeriness.
Cheung stars as Fong Fong-Fong, an obsessive shopaholic whose addiction is so severe, she has trouble holding down a job because she can't help but rush off to the nearest store for more shopping for things she doesn't need. Knowing she has a problem, she seeks professional advise in the form of one of Hong Kong's finest psychologists, Choosey Lee (Ching Wan), who is so impressed by her affliction that he hires her on as an assistant in making videos for diagnosing chronic shopaholics. Meanwhile, Choosey's former flame Ding Ding-Dong (Koon, Crazy N' the City), and a wealthy potential suitor, Richie Ho (Chan, Initial D), enter the scene, causing a love quadrangle of obsessive behavior and misplaced feelings that has their lives spiraling wildly out of control as they vie for each others attentions, seemingly at any cost.
Shopaholics starts off with some promise, introducing its eccentric characters well, exploring their amusing obsessions and interactions, setting up the film for some mildly amusing, innocuous fare. Perhaps this could have been achieved if Ka-Fai didn't actually think he had a funny, wacky romp on his hands, as the energy level and frenetic madcap action escalate to a fever pitch, but as much as the mayhem ensues, the potential fun and humor of it is sucked completely out of the equation. What's worse, the laughs aren't just scarce, they are nonexistent, leaving the players with little to do but try their best to be irreverent and goofy, in the hope that potential viewers might respond favorably should they enjoy the characterizations, regardless of how shallow they might be.
Shopaholics is so lightweight and breezy that it is a real endurance test to just maintain attention to, with little in the way of engaging conflicts to spark our interest. Surely, it is colorful and energetic, but there's just nothing underneath the cotton candy exterior of substance, as vapid and disposable as films get. Strictly for those that love romantic comedies for blithe aesthetics over thoughtful substance. For everyone else, you can scratch this one off your shopping list before you purchase.
©2006 Vince Leo