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The Shopaholics

Cecilia Cheung and Lau Ching-Wan hit the mall in Shopaholics.

Chinese: 最愛女人購物狂  
Year: 2006  
Director: Wai Ka-Fai
Writer: Wai Ka-Fai, Au Kin-Yee
Cast: Cecilia Cheung Pak-Chi, Lau Ching-Wan, Jordan Chan Siu-Chun, Ella Koon Yun-Na, Paula Tsui Siu-Fung, Maggie Siu Mei-Kei, Law Kar-Ying, Wong Tin-Lam, Ha Chun-Chau, Amy Kwok Oi-Ming, Stephanie Che Yuen-Yuen, Isabel Chan Yat-Ning, Marco Lok Lik-Wai, Johnny Chen (Lu Sze-Ming)
The Skinny: Fluffy and fun. The Shopaholics is a fast and furious screwball comedy that relies on speed and repetitive shenanigans instead of a solid screenplay or acting - which is fine, because this is a Lunar New Year film. A much, much better movie than Himalaya Singh.
by Kozo:

It's that time of the year again. Besides red pockets and (hopefully) a day or two off, Lunar New Year means yet another opportunity for Wai Ka-Fai, Cecilia Cheung, and Lau Ching-Wan to attempt to tickle our funny bone. They did a fine job two years ago with Fantasia, but missed the mark by a good 3000 miles with last year's Himalaya Singh. Their latest attempt: The Shopaholics, an urban farce about people who like to shop too much. In the case of Fong Fong-Fong (Cecilia Cheung), the habit is a major issue. She loses jobs, forgets her responsibilities, and generally acts like a total loon when let loose in one of Hong Kong's omnipresent mega-malls. For Fong-Fong, shopping is more than a hobby, it's a disease.

Enter Choosey Lee (Lau Ching-Wan), a popular psychologist who resolves to cure Fong-Fong. He also hires her to be his assistant, which comes about during a breathless session/interview where the equally-addled doctor keeps switching between counseling and interviewing Fong-Fong. Choosey's problem is that he isn't able to make any choices, from buying his lunch, to selecting his fighting style (in a repeated gag, Choosey can't decide which martial art to use when kicking people's asses), to choosing his women. Choosey has an ex-girlfriend, Ding Ding-Dong (lucious-lipped Ella Koon), who's also a shopaholic, but one who's lowered herself to knockoff goods and crappy discounted merchandise. Fong-Fong also has another guy, insanely rich tycoon Richie Ho (Jordan Chan), who alternates between being a tightwad miser and a spendthrift, the latter of which happens when someone competes with him financially. The four eventually demonstrate the seriousness of their neuroses by getting involved in a four-way engagement, the resolution of which is scheduled for their joint wedding day. How screwed up is that?

The answer: plenty screwed up, but that's where all the fun in Shopaholics lies. Wai Ka-Fai seems to be lampooning Hong Kong citizens in general with his tale of spendthrift screwups. Early on, Choosey Lee tells us that Hong Kong people have plenty of mental illnesses thanks to their hectic, fast-paced lifestyles, which are concerned with one thing only: making money. As the stereotype goes, Hong Kong people are all about the $$$, and get involved in such sordid things as massive debt, rampant materialism, and arbitrary choices based on a person's bank account. There isn't room for serious issues in a Lunar New Year flick, and Wai Ka-Fai blithely slides by any real commentary by going for the screwball farce. He does wring some sly laughs from his parody of Hong Kong's culture of materialism, but makes sure to appease the parodied parties by delivering a fantasy about a gorgeous shopaholic like Cecilia Cheung getting stuck between two incredibly rich and eligible bachelors. If only real-life psychiatry patients were as screwed up as the attractive neurotics presented in Shopaholics.

And there are plenty of neurotics to go around. The parents are messed up too, from Wong Tin-Lam, who has narcolepsy, to Law Kar-Ying, who's a gambling addict and can't stop using foul language. The matriarch of this entire bunch is Dr. Phoenix Luk (classic singer Paula Tsui, also playing a shopaholic), who's not actually related to anyone, but serves as the mother thanks to her overly-genial personality and way with psychiatry. She eventually decides to solve the young foursome's choosing issues with a whirlwind of phone call psychiatry on their joint wedding day, directing them to chase, dump, or trick their potential partners in a protracted "get to the church on time" finale that's as amusing as it is breathless and tiresome. Wai Ka-Fai goes for broke with his back-and-forth climax, which mines repetition and overdone histrionics to such an extreme that it only grows exhausting. If you happen to check out Shopaholics and find the breathless pace, overdone characters, and rampant silliness tiring, you're probably not alone.

But the speed of silliness is half the fun of Shopaholics. Things move so quickly and so forcefully that the film's lack of anything substantial doesn't seem to register once the credits roll. Only once or twice does the film really slow down, and the moments manage to be semi-affecting ones between usual costars Lau Ching-Wan and Cecilia Cheung. Neither does anything in Shopaholics worth writing home about; each mugs and overacts with the practiced professionalism of a Lunar New Year film veteran. The same goes for the rest of the cast, the only exception being Paula Tsui, who doesn't really seem to act at all - though Wai Ka-Fai's screenplay and direction don't seem to require it of her. Wai doesn't seem interested in challenging anything or anyone, and goes ultra-innocuous by making everything incredibly light and predictable. The result is too inconsequential to be truly noteworthy, but these are forgiving times. Shopaholics is an entertaining trifle, and fast, fluffy, and funny enough for the masses. (Kozo 2006)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese/Mandarin Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

image courtesy of Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen