fans of Hong Kong Cinema often refer to the late eighties
and early nineties as a "Golden Age" of Hong Kong
Cinema. A pile of favorites, some critically acclaimed,
and some just damn entertaining, were released during those
years, leading to many a rose-colored recalling of cinema
memories past. However, even the "Golden Age"
produced some clunkers. Case in point: How to Pick Girls
Up, a 1988 laffer from hitmeister Wong Jing, which proves
that you don't need to make a good movie to make a buck.
It's a lesson Hong Kong and Hollywood know all too well,
and in the financial sense, How To Pick Girls Up
may have been a prudent decision. As a film however, there's
only one word for this: inexcusable.
Eric Tsang stars as "Love
Pain Killer", a radio talk show host who proffers advice
to the romantically downtrodden. In reality, he's a chauvinist
piece of crap, but somehow he decides to take three hapless
lovers under his wing. Wilson Lam is the only semi-decent
looking one of the bunch, an ultra-shy virgin who's madly
in love with a girl he runs into everyday on the MTR. The
girl is Maggie Cheung, so we can sympathize. Meanwhile,
Wong Jing plays the the nicest guy alive, and is head over
heels over a violent TV actress (Chingmy Yau). He goes to
the "Love Pain Killer"
to get close to her, which leads to - you guessed it - the
sight of Chingmy Yau serving up Wong Jing with a healthy
helping of whupass. Finally, Stanley Fung is a foul-mouthed
bastard who's in love with gorgeous Elizabeth Lee, so he
pretends to be retarded to earn her sympathy. Maybe his
uncouth manner is supposed to make him charming, but a swift
kick to the head might be more appropriate for this boor.
The "Love Pain Killer" could use a beatdown himself;
he's a sickening womanizer who mentally abuses his live-in
girlfriend (Sandra Ng) so he can have his way with other
women. And remember, this is all supposed to be funny!
Amazingly, How to
Pick Girls Up can be funny, though the frequency
and actual quality of the laughs is under serious
debate. Basically, this is the same old stuff you've
seen in a billion other Wong Jing movies. Take some
semi-attractive to downright ugly guys, and pair them
up with women who are their physical and moral superiors.
For a good portion of the running time, the guys lie,
cheat, and generally deceive the women, all because
they're actually supposed to like them. The girls
say no, teach the guys a lesson, and then choose to
date them anyway. Meanwhile, despite the inherent
lesson that a guy should be good to girls, there's
misogyny and general cruelty that's played for laughs,
plus plenty of time-killing dialogue masquerading
as interesting content. Again, you've seen if before:
characters in Wong Jing movies generally stand around
and harangue each other with semi-witty verbal slapdowns,
untranslatable wordplay, or swearing passed off as
comedy. Truthfully, some people once considered this
formula a decent time at the movies; this could be
of more use as a sociology experiment than as actual
proof of film quality.
However, like any Wong Jing
"Chasing Girls" production, How To Pick Girls
Up is review-proof, meaning I can scream and yell about
just how bad this movie is, but it won't make much difference.
Some people will argue, "But it's supposed to be that
way!", and they're right. This is supposed to be lazy
filmmaking, and it is lazy filmmaking. Audiences
can get their jollies at the lowbrow laughs and abundance
of hot girls, whose purpose seems to be to prevent red-blooded
males from blinking. Ellen Chan is tanned and toned in her
bikini, Elizabeth Lee parades around in tight blouses, and
Chingmy Yau and Maggie Cheung are Chingmy Yau and Maggie
Cheung - no extra sales pitch is necessary here. The female
audiences aren't in luck though, as the males are either
uninteresting (Wilson Lam), questionably attractive (Wong
Jing, Stanley Fung), or morally reprehensible (Eric Tsang).
But hey, this worked for some people at some time, and enough
that it apparently rated release on DVD nearly twenty years
later. To many audiences, the cheap and cheesy antics of
How To Pick Girls Up epitomizes Hong Kong-style filmmaking,
which isn't entirely inaccurate. For those who view movies
as disposable entertainment, this could fit their bill.
For those who view movies as exercises in creativity, or
(*gasp*) art, this is a total waste of time.
And yes, it's a bad movie. Sorry.