Summer Holiday

Reviewed by YTSL

What is it with Jingle Ma's directorial efforts that just make it so that they absolutely don't ring my bell?  All I know is that I had a definite negative reaction to his flashy but silly "Tokyo Raiders" and found the Astro-boy (dis)appearance of a main character in "Fly Me to Polaris" too ludicrous to overlook.  Also, I do wonder now, post watching his latest disappointing offering (an intended fun(ny) "opposites attract" film which had looked like it couldn't fail since it paired up the talented and likeable singer-actress Sammi Cheng with the trendily shaggy-haired male lead of Ma's successful tearjerker), whether I gave the cold-feeling "Hot War" more of a chance - and a higher rating -- than it deserved.

SUMMER HOLIDAY sets out to be light-hearted but its leaden script - filled with patronizingly overstated "oh, ha HA" moments and, as with director Ma's year 2000 Chinese New Year offering, the kind of deceptions that one can only pull off if one is a really good actor (or actress) -- weighs down proceedings considerably.  So too does the tendency of many of its cast - who, apart from its undisputed star, seem to have consisted largely of under-instructed first time Malaysian actors and actresses and equally little known Taiwanese and other imports (this Golden Harvest production was largely shot in Malaysia's Pulau Redang) - to mug and overplay rather than actually portray characters who bear some resemblance to real people (as opposed to the sort who are too one-dimensional to exist anywhere outside of bad fictitious works).

It is very much to her credit that Sammi Cheng was able to make her high-strung fish-out-of-water-in-a-very-beautiful-tropical-idyll title character generally watchable and even sympathetic.  Her shoe- as well as tantrum-throwing antics were laughable in the best way possible.  So too were her often amoral bids to charm and fool Richie Ren's caring Mo Mo Cha character into acceding to her demands.  Enjoyable as they were, my choice of a highlight scene from this film is that which had her making a karaoke session into an actually moving experience, sound and sight.  It would be no exaggeration to say that much of the insufficient pleasure that this (re)viewer derived from seeing SUMMER HOLIDAY on a big screen came from her presence in this glossy looking - Jingle Ma has NEVER disappointed as a cinematographer and, on the evidence of this work alone, is assured of getting employment as a tourist destination advertisement maker -- but horribly shallow work.
Though its producers might not realize it, one human star, nice camera work and scenic locations cannot an entire movie make (or save); and the undeniable fact of the matter is that Ms. Cheng had too little real help in keeping this supposedly romantic comedic vehicle afloat from others.  To some extent, it is understandable that minor players like Agu Tan Kheng Seong (a pint-sized individual whose singing cook character is (nick)named - ha, ha...yeah, right -- Hercules), Michael Wong (no, not THAT Michael Wong; playing a second singing buddy of Mo Mo's named Zeneger, after Schwarzenegger), and Tay Ping Hui (as the man whose two-timing of Summer cum causing her to lose her job sent her flying to Malaysia in search of a change to her massively downward spiralling fortunes) can't do all that much.
However, I think it fair to be able to expect more from and of the amateurishly Cantonese-overdubbed Richie Ren (whose surficially carefree character Summer initially labels a hick but (too) predictably grows to have affections for).  Also, while there are female characters beside Sammi Cheng's in SUMMER HOLIDAY, they (including those played by Echo Shum, Christy Tam and Katherine Wang) all pale as well as come off as too caricaturish when inevitably compared with that of the movie's lively indisputable star.  Amidst it all, what is hardest for me to swallow is my sure sense that this trite piece got more financial backing than many other Hong Kong movies with way more heart and soul (but fewer professional crooners in its cast).

My rating for the film:  4.5