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Nobody's Perfect

Nobody's Perfect     Nobody's Perfect

(left) Stephy Tang gets upset, and (right) Tang and Kary Ng clean their molars in Nobody's Perfect.

Chinese: 絕代雙嬌
Year: 2008  
Director: Patrick Kong
Writer: Patrick Kong
Cast: Stephy Tang Lai-Yun, Kary Ng Yiu-Fei, Sammy, Chelsea Tong So-Kei, Kelvin Kwan Chor-Yiu, Winkie Lai Mei-Yin, Crystal Cheung Man-Ga, Regen Cheung Wai-Nga, Tin Kai-Man, Mimi Chu Mi-Mi, Siu Fei, Joey Leung Cho-Yiu, Chrissie Chau Sau-Na, Ken Lo Wai-Kwong, Cheung Ka-Lun, Harriet Yeung Sze-Man, Candy Hau Woon-Ling
The Skinny: Nobody's Perfect amuses thanks to its surprisingly funny pop culture references, but the poor pacing, aimless story and overlong running time conspire to ruin everything. For Cookies fans and Hong Kong Entertainment junkies, the film has its good points. Not Patrick Kong's best film, but not his worst either.
by Kozo:
Patrick Kong takes a break from back-up lovers and unnecessary plot twists for Nobody's Perfect, his third film of 2008 and the first that qualifies as an intentional comedy. Nobody's Perfect does feature two-timing and crappy boyfriends, but those details are minor compared to the main theme of the film. What is the main theme? Probably a prosaic lesson about being a better person, but the film is far more notable for mercilessly savaging Hong Kong-specific pop culture and engaging in crass promotion, courtesy of twin bankrollers Gold Label Music and the Neway karaoke chain. At every chance, the film makes reference to Gold Label's contingent of singers (e.g., Ronald Cheng and Justin Lo), while characters occasionally exclaim, "Hey, let's go sing karaoke! There's a Neway nearby!" The only way the product placement could be any more noticeable is if actors started accepting checks from the sponsors onscreen. It's that obvious.

Luckily, that promotion only accounts for about 10% of the film - though it's a very annoying 10%. Look past that and the expected crappy filmmaking and you may find some surprisingly funny jokes. Nobody's Perfect can be quite amusing for those who follow Hong Kong and general pop culture, as the script breathlessly pokes fun at Edison Chen, The Dark Knight, Isabella Leong, Ekin Cheng, Storm Riders, "White Flower Prince" Stephen Gan Fock-Wai (a local celebrity indicted for sexually harassing a taxi driver), and numerous other topics of local interest. The characters have funny names too, as they're frequently named after real celebrities, e.g. Norman Tsui Siu-Keung, CJ7 child actor Xu Jiao, or even Jackie Chan's wife. Why does Patrick Kong choose to skewer people in such an odd, offhand manner? Who the hell knows, but he did it and the constant name-dropping can be amusing. Coherent and necessary? No. Funny? Sure, if you get what's going on.

What's not funny: racism, aimless screenwriting, and crappy direction. Patrick Kong has apparently never heard of political correctness as he makes needless fun of both Thais and Filipinos - though to be fair, cultural insensitivity has long been a problem in Hong Kong films (e.g., Driving Miss Wealthy, or the scores of homophobic films HK has produced). The film's plot and story also lack, as many scenes do nothing to move the movie forward. Sometimes the film seems like it's trying to tell a story, and then it completely derails, going for long sequences of random shtick that don't amuse as much as they aggravate. The pacing problem also exists due to Kong's direction, as many scenes are just droning marathons of characters screeching at one another until audience eardrums threaten to burst. Kong is not a bad writer, and some of his satirical jokes are dead-on. However, he has to learn to economize. A wacky joke-fest like this should be compact, but Nobody's Perfect clocks in at a wheezing 100 minutes. A note to directors everywhere: the editor is your friend.

The plot, because every film is nominally required to have one: former classmates Alexandra (Stephy Tang) and Alexis (Kary Ng) couldn’t be more different. Alexandra is an independent woman who works as a professional gossip broker, helping to spread and/or hoard information about Hong Kong celebrities. She's also clever, snarky and a total bitch, and addresses people with disdain if not four-letter words. In any sane motion picture, she'd be due for some sort of comeuppance. Meanwhile, Alexis is sweet, good-natured and a bit slow. She lives with her brother Norman (Sammy) while attending to her prospective in-laws, including the father (Tin Kai-Man) and Norman's bride-to-be Pearl (Chelsea Tong). She also lives outside their apartment in a structure that's barely larger than a cage, and never sticks up for herself. The two could use with some personality switching - and that's just what happens! Thanks to a barely-developed plot device, the two get the Freaky Friday treatment, and end up inhabiting one another's bodies. Obviously life lessons will be learned, and each will emerge with a better understanding of not only each other but the human condition in general. It could be a Disney movie.

However, Disney movies are not likely to have this many crude jokes, and Nobody's Perfect serves up more than enough to earn this teen-targeted film a Category IIB rating. Characters swear a blue streak (the subtitle "For Fxxk's sake!" appears about a dozen times), and there are references to such family-friendly topics as adult videos, sadomasochism, and incest. It's actually quite refreshing to see stars like Stephy Tang swear up a storm, as it gives them some dimension beyond the plastic idol image we're usually fed. For people familiar with the Gold Label stable of stars, Nobody's Perfect has its pleasures; not only do the actors play against type (thanks to the body-switching gag, both Stephy Tang and Kary Ng get to play spiteful and sweet), but they also make fun of themselves, too. One joke pokes fun at Tang's live singing, which has been criticized for being off-key. Tang willingly goes along with the gag, and is also not afraid to appear bitchy, unsympathetic, or just plain stupid. The same could be said for the rest of the cast; everyone overacts, throwing out jokes and double entendres at light speed. The effect can be fast and funny, though Patrick Kong's leaden pacing throws a wrench in the works.

Basically, Patrick Kong both damns and saves Nobody's Perfect. His jokes can be surprisingly funny, but he drags them out so long that they frequently lose their bite. He makes his actors into good comedians but leaves them out on a limb so long that they start to become annoying. He delivers a decent, if not original commercial storyilne, but spins his wheels during the second half of the film, making the whole thing a chore to follow. What helps the film is simply the humor, which is scathing but also somewhat good-natured. The filmmakers make fun of everyone, including themselves, and the film lacks the pretensions normally associated with Patrick Kong's hit romances. Ultimately, that makes it agreeable and even enjoyable, though there are so many caveats that the film is categorically not for everyone. Let's see, you need a working knowledge of Cantonese, you need to be familiar with Hong Kong pop culture, and you need to be willing to enjoy crap. Nobody's Perfect is surprisingly funny, but it could never qualify as anything more than crap. Thankfully, everyone in the film seems to understand that too, and going along with them provides a better time than expected. Besides, no movie is perfect. (Kozo 2008)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Garry's Trading Co.
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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image credits: Gold Label Pictures Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen