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Happily Ever After
Happily Ever After

Ken Hung and Michelle Wai attempt to live Happily Ever After.
Chinese: 很想和你在一起
Year: 2009
Director: Y.Y. Kong, Azrael Chung
Writer: Philip Lui
Cast: Ken Hung Cheuk-Lap, Michelle Wai, Carlos Chan Ka-Lok, Hui Siu-Hung, Anjo Leung Hiu-Fung, Gladys Fung Ho-Sze, A. Lin
The Skinny: Competent idol romance with a predictable twist and a third act that could incite death via unintentional laughter. There's some potential talent here, and the target audience should still be served. Still, they do this genre better in Japan.
by Kozo:

Summer romance is awesome, especially when it involves impossibly cute idols on the big screen. At least, that’s the formula that works so incredibly well in Japan, where photogenic and frequently interchangeable idol romances have their own dedicated section at video stores. Not to be left out, Hong Kong audiences are getting their 2009 shot at the genre courtesy of the presumptuously titled Happily Ever After, produced by Hong Kong entertainment juggernaut EEG.

Happily Ever After stars EEG idol Ken Hung (Love is Elsewhere) as a super-cute high school guy who plays will-they-or-won't-they with a super-cute high school girl (TVB idol drama actress Michelle Wai). The basic story: girl meets boy, boy and girl spar in a manufactured manner, boy and girl get together, boy and girl face a surprising problem that makes their union difficult, and boy and girl finally resolve their problem for better or worse. A third party complicates matters and everyone goes home happy. Yay! 90 minutes of innocuous, possibly melodramatic fun!

Well, the “90 minutes”, “innocuous”, and "melodramatic" parts do happen, but “fun”? Not as much. Co-directed by longtime producer Y.Y. Kong and editor Azrael Chung, Happily Ever After starts decently with young Nam (Michelle Wai) making a scene in a 7-11 regarding her missing boyfriend, who she's desperately looking for. Cut to days earlier and Nam is enjoying her part-time college life, splitting time between school, meals with her dad (Hui Siu-Hung, in one of his patented patriarch roles), and her part-time job with high school classmate Chun-Man (Carlos Chan).

The handsome and ultra-nice Chun-Man has long had a thing for Nam, but he's out of luck. Nam still pines for Sze To-Chi (Ken Hung), a classmate who split for Canada some years earlier, leaving Nam wondering what could have been. Even more flashbacks show us that Nam and To-Chi were rivals who bickered incessantly before flirting with romance, but something happened that made it all go to hell. Their high school reunion is now fast approaching. Will To-Chi return to reconcile with Nam? Or will their rivalry begin anew? What will Chun-Man do? And why was Nam screaming her head off about a missing boyfriend in the film's opening?

Happily Ever After possesses a sizable twist that's easy to figure out because it's pretty much revealed in the film's opening moments. The same twist has been used effectively in other romances, but Happily Ever After is hurt by its earnest tone. The filmmakers choose to approach its emotions slowly and seriously, which is fine in the early going when the situations are easily digestible if not original. However, when the film starts delivering reveal upon reveal, it pretty much jumps the shark and nukes the fridge, setting up a climax that could leave the audience in stitches due to the over-the-top melodramatic seriousness of it all.

Extreme obstacles are created for the film's would-be couple, and before long people stop behaving in a sensible or logical manner. Things are ultimately resolved, but the questions raised could easily justify sequels if not a long-running sitcom about intolerable family dynamics. No, Nam doesn't end up with two husbands, but the solution presented isn't much better. Making matters worse is the intrusive score, which consists entirely of never-ending tinkly piano. Thankfully, the film never sinks into pretension, sticking with its characters over universal declarations of truth. At least the filmmakers' intentions, if not their execution, are admirable.

Happily Ever After does possess some simple, superficial enjoyment that should please its target audience. The main romance is competently and photogenically presented, and a side story about a dopey violinist (Anjo Leung of Magic Boy) and his crush (model A. Lin, informally known as the "fake Charlene Choi") neatly acknowledges one major cliché of this genre. Lead Ken Hung is only a step above bland, but he possesses an arresting cuteness that should appeal to pre-teen girls. Hong Kong's male idols are seldom as wholesome-seeming as Hung, making him a nice change-up from the attitude heavy Nics, Deeps and Edisons of years past. He's easily more interesting than the handsome and dull Carlos Chan, though Chan's character is a near thankless one anyway.

However, both guys are outshone by Michelle Wai, who admirably gives it her all as the teary and ultimately weary Nam. The script occasionally hangs her out to dry, and she stumbles noticeably when attempting to sell the ridiculous third act. But she's pretty and articulate, and presents a refreshing alternative to the interchangeable female idols forced upon audiences by Gold Label and Patrick Kong in their crass youth melodramas. As a showcase for potential talent, Happily Ever After deserves some minor notice. Seeing the half-full glass makes you a better person. (Kozo, 2009)



DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
CN Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese subtitles
Find this at YesAsia

image credit: Emperor Entertainment Group

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