Summer Lover (Review)

Summer Lover

aka Xia ri qing ren

Alfred Cheung Kin-Ting as Ting
Veronica Yip Yuk-Hing as Siu-Yuk
Vivian Chow Wai-Man as Liza
Loletta Lee Lai-chun as Janet
Max Mok Siu-Chung as Chung
Russell Wong as Zeniger
Directed by Clifton Ko Chi-Sum

A lovable loser meets the girl of his dreams, only she’s a spirit sent by magical VCD to obey his commands. This timeless tale hit the modern update, though it’s been played out in many media over the years. From genies in bottles to magic internet women, the story has been told many times before, and will be told many times after. This particular telling, though, is the one we are interested in. Summer Lover is not just an NC-17 late-night sex movie. In fact, there is little sex, though it’s in there. Most of the film is lighthearted comedy, in the vein of the early 1980’s teenager movies with the adult joke, aka the legion of bad Porky’s clones that dotted the 1980’s like beer cans on the side of the highway Sunday morning. Summer Lover‘s biggest difference is the particular method of the ladies. The women come out via magical VCD, a technology that’s getting phased out for DVDs. VCDs are huge in China and Asia, while VHS reigned supreme here in America. The women call themselves Laser Ladies, where in the US they’d be VHS Vixens, and now would be DVD Dolls. See, timeless!

This film is based on the Japanese Manga Video Girl Ai, which I have never read and have no intention of reading ever. I guess magazines where women come to life from VCDs is popular or something, but if Marvel ever put out something like that, it would probably almost sell as well as the New Universe titles. Anyone remember that? I was like 7, but I knew a bad decision when I saw one.

Our hopeless hero is Lifeguard Ting (Alfred Cheung), who is the total stereotype dateless guy. He’s got the bad hair, the big glasses, the bad job, and is a total klutz. Ting yearns for his love Liza (Vivian Chow), who he’s friends with but cannot get. Whenever Ting sees Liza, he bleeds, calling it the “Blood of Heroes.” Today is Ting’s birthday, but Liza cannot attend his party tonight. Ting’s friend is named Zeniger (Russell Wong), who is also Liza’s on again/off again man. Zeniger is a pretty boy, overshadowing his odd name. Ting has another friend named Chung, who is the movie’s horndog character. Ting’s party for the evening turns out to be just a tape for lonely guys that pretends to have a party going on. Ting’s friend Chung calls him up and wants to go looking for some “instant noodles” (aka prostitutes), but they end up going to a VCD store (aka a Laser Shop.) A magic VCD store (aka a Magic Laser Shop.) Run by a white guy. A magic white guy. You know he’s magical because he’s effeminate and is wearing a white long-haired wig. Luckily, he’s Cantonese fluent and can direct the two boys around, as he says the shop is specially made for brokenhearted people. Ting’s first impulse is to buy a Donald Duck VCD (which would have made a very odd sex movie….) but the manager directs the two lonely guys to the adult section. He gives them some special VCDs, each one featuring a different lady. Different magic ladies.

Ting’s VCD features the woman Siu Yuk (Veronica Yip), who has green hair and smiles toward the camera. She informs that she “will try best to comfort you” while suddenly Liza is at the door, with a gift of a mirror for Ting. Ting can’t get the VCD to turn off, so has to answer while it runs in the background. Ting makes excuses as to why no one is there at his party, when the voice on the video makes Liza leave, thinking he has a lady over. Ting yells at the screen in disgust, angry at the woman in the video. Surprisingly to Ting (but not to us, what with the previous plot synopsis) the lady Siu-Yuk answers. After telling him she’ll help him, lightning strikes the TV and suddenly she materializes on the bed, unconscious. Maybe the lightning hit the eject button, but I’ve never seen my DVD player do that, even with VCDs. Darn Japanese technology is always way ahead of us, even the Chinese get it first! Siu-Yuk then wakes up, and yells at Ting for getting angry at her. So far this is off to a great start! The fantasy woman is angry from the first moments of consciousness after materialization. Sounds like any fantasy I would get. Siu-Yuk then tells Ting he’s her master, making Siu-Yuk some sort of geenie that doesn’t give wishes, just some boot-knocking. Aladdin got the shaft, man! She’ll do whatever he wants, so he freaks out and thinks he needs to prepare!

Preparing for the fantasy woman involves a hectic brew of exercises, brushing his teeth, shaving, shaving his legs (???), cutting his nails, and putting on deodorant. Ting then dresses up nice, but by then Siu-Yuk is laughing at all the effort he’s putting into it. Ting recalls how he likes Liza, and we get a video montage of Ting and Zeniger posing on the beach for Liza; Ting being outshown due to Zeniger just being so damned sexy. Zeniger always pursues the same targets at Ting. We also find out Siu-Yuk cannot cook at all, so I guess the ultimate male fantasy of a genie who can cook is out the window. Siu-Yuk promises to help Ting get Liza.

Ting finds out the remote control works on the Laser Girl Siu-Yuk, allowing him to fast-forward, rewind, and slowmo her. Siu-Yuk tells Ting she will vanish in a month, so he has until then to get the girl. Siu-Yuk will also vanish if the VCD player is turned off, so hopefully Ting isn’t subjected to random power blackouts. But now it’s BATH TIME!! Ting is very embarrassed. A little too embarrassed. It’s weird… Meanwhile, Chung hasn’t used his magic VCD yet, for his player seems to be messed up.

Ting has a flashback where he sees Liza left alone by Zeniger, who drives off on his motorcycle after telling her something rude. What a great flashback. Meanwhile in real time, Ting and Siu-Yuk have to sleep in the same bed, which also freaks out the shy Ting. Perhaps if Ting has a trillionth of a particle of self-confidence, he wouldn’t be so annoying in these embarrassing moments. More flashback tells us that Liza still likes Zeniger, but Zeniger wants to let Ting have her, since he’s tired of her and they are best friends.

Siu-Yuk goes shopping at the grocery store, and we now learn that Hong Kong grocery stores are cesspools of sleazy, sleazy men. It’s like a zoo, where every cage has a different species of sexually harassing pervert. We got starers, droolers, accidental bumpers, and outright buttgrabbers. We have “Butt Grab Cam” with a point of view shot as it heads toward it’s target. It’s like watching videos of missiles striking Iraq. Also, grocery stores are full of censorship, as both “Bitch” and “damn” are bleeped out. Ting’s horny friend Chung is also there, also sexually harassing, and framing other patrons for his crime.

Back home, Siu-Yuk informs Ting about the HGRCT. The HGRCT is what you need to attract the women. H=handsome. G=great (aka great organ.) R=rich. C=concern. T=time (to stay with her, i.e. so you won’t leave.) Ting is missing his HGRC. We also find out about what attracts girls of the 90’s. As this is 2006 when I write this, the relevance is strange, and perhaps a little nostalgic. What’s the word? STUFMOG. Yes, STUFMOG. Pronounced like Stuff Mog, I’d guess. S=subtle. T=talkative. U=understanding. F=fantastic. M=more and more. O=Order. G=give up (if it doesn’t work.) This movie was made during those few years when all women wanted sensitive men, it would seem. All these acronyms give Ting a nosebleed. Ting is beginning to get feelings for Siu-Yuk, but is told if they fall in love, she will vanish instantly and never return. Ting must learn martial arts, so he dresses up like he’s in Dragonball Z and gets to practicing. Did I mention this was based on a Manga? Because that’s something only manga would do. Or cartoons. Or Robot Chicken. Okay, many things would do it. Give me a break, I don’t watch Dragonball Z so I can’t make a good joke. If Ting was dressed like Team Rocket from Pokemon I could say something! What’s the matter, Ting? Can’t you catch them all?

While Ting is out Dragonballing, Siu-Yuk cooks him dinner, which is interrupted when Ting returns home with Liza, who is wanting to cook herself! So Siu-Yuk has to hide all the food she cooked before Liza sees it. At dinner, Liza’s food is good, getting Ting’s complements (while annoying Siu-Yuk.) Afterwards, Ting then eats Siu-Yuk’s food “so not to waste it” but ends up liking it as well. Ting then goes on a date with Liza, and follows the spelling of the STUFMOG. Ting talks about how he donated blood and sperm, but didn’t get money for it. If he did, he’s be a billionaire! That’s exactly the conversation I use when trying to impress people, so it’s a definite winner. Siu-Yuk is watching, but heads home shortly afterwards, as poor Liza is still visualizing Ting wanking it in a hospital waiting room. Chung horndogs his way over to Ting’s place, looking for a working VCD player to watch his movie. Nevertheless, he runs into Siu-Yuk, who tells him all about he Laser Ladies thing, to keep him from using the VCD player. Chung gets the impression she’s a bit daft, but since he’s never slept with a crazy fool, so he asks her out to a movie. It just so happens to be the same movie that Ting and Liza are at. Chung tries some fake crying (despite the movie being a comedy) just so he can put his face by her boobs. This upsets Ting a bit, who tells Siu-Yuk that “He wants to take over your virgin!” but she isn’t listening to him. Ignoring the terrible subtitles, this is weird, what with Siu-Yuk being pretty much a magical prostitute who probably had her virgin taken over years ago. No wonder Ting has no luck with the ladies. Ting tries to tell Liza he loves her, but the moment is ruined when Zeniger rides by on his motorcycle. Chung takes Siu-Yuk back to his place, but she doesn’t want to kiss him and escapes, just as Ting comes by, seeing her he goes loco, until he finds out nothing happened.

Chung then puts his Laser Lady disk in his player again, and soon Janet appears again onscreen. He calls out her name, so she then comes out of the TV, but not in the bad The Ring crazy girl coming out of the TV to kill you way. She’s the lovely Loletta Lee Lai-chun, who hasn’t been featured on this site yet, despite me owning several of her films. She’s not naked a whole lot in this one, only a little bit. I bring that up, because she’s pretty much known for getting naked in films, despite not doing it recently. As the evil Laser Girl Janet, Loletta will be doing what evil Laser Girls do. What is that? We shall see…

It’s SEX!!! Dirty, dirty sex!!! Finally! What kind of sex movie makes you wait so long before some sexing sexes up? So, instead of having some normal sex, Chung decides to live out his fantasies, and suddenly we are in the movie The Lover, with Chung in the Tony Leung role (complete with white suit) and Janet is Jane March (complete with straw hat and pigtails.) They redo the scene in the car where they touch hands (one of the few scenes where there isn’t constant sex happening in that movie) and Janet seems to become multiply orgasmic at Chung’s slightest touch. And then they have sex. Yep. Sex. With their sex organs.

Back at Ting’s place, Ting gets knocked out by Janet, who then demands answers from Siu-Yuk as to what is going on. Siu-Yuk wants to stay with Ting forever, but Janet yells at her, telling her it’s impossible. Laser Ladies cannot do such things.

Yep, enough of plot, it’s time for another MOVIE SEX SCENE. This time, Chung and Janet reenact what looks to be part of The Last Emperor. Some weird kissing with wide eyes freaks me out a bit. Then they have more sex. Yep. More sex. With their more sex organs.

Ting finally wakes up from his knockout (Janet sure can move between houses fast, and knock out dudes for a long time!) to find Siu-Yuk is not home. He’s out looking for her, when he sees Liza and Zeniger walking together. The second Zeniger notices Ting, he starts treating Liza like garbage, and then runs off.

Time for another MOVIE SEX SCENE. The movie Chung and Janet will be having sex as this time is Stanley Kwan’s Rouge(I think…). Then they have even more sex. Yep. Even more sex. With their even more sex organs.

Siu-Yuk then asks Janet for help turning off her VCD player (I guess in effect suicide out until her next Laser Lady adventure.) Meanwhile, Chung has turned grey-haired (Now we know what happened to Taylor Hicks!) and old from the non-stop sex. This made me think that the Laser Ladies suck out the life-force of the lonely men, but it’s really nothing like that, and Chung is just exhausting himself without stocking up on Gatorade in between sexathons. The suicide must not work out, as Siu-Yuk is still at Ting’s place a little later, though wanting to be left alone. This is to Liza’s disadvantage, as she comes by trying to confess to Ting that she’s in love with him. Ting then tells Liza that he’s in love with Siu-Yuk, which causes Liza to run off, and she eventually ends up on the back of Zeniger’s motorcycle as they drive off together.

Siu-Yuk’s time is up, as the VCD has reached the end of the 30 days. She vanishes and Ting is sad, even when Janet appears on his bed a few seconds later, trying to seduce him. He refuses her, and then she cries because he’s so sincere, then returns to the TV.

It is now the future. The future of five years from now, I guess (or five years from then.) Chung is the most popular man on the beach, his grey hair is like an aphrodisiac for beach bunnies. This is truly a disturbing future. Liza is on the beach with Zeniger, with their 4 1/2 kids (she being knocked up again!) Ting voiceovers that he’s glad he missed that bomb. Ting is still a lifeguard, and soon someone is in trouble in the water. It’s a guy in a green wig….the Laser Store Guy! A lady comes up to complain to Ting, and it’s Siu-Yuk! But not Siu-Yuk! It’s a girl who looks just like her, but doesn’t know who Ting is. In fact, she thinks he’s crazy when he starts talking to her like he knows her. She leaves, but he chases after. The movie concludes with the closing credits, as the song Get out of my dreams, get into my car, but instead of Billy Ocean, it’s some Chinese group doing a cover of it, in Cantonese! Amazingly, this is a perfect song for the end, even though there wasn’t a car in the movie.

Well, we reached the end. The film is a mess as it tries to be both a romantic comedy and a sex film. Many of the scenes are supposedly straight out of the manga, but still it comes off as some sort of mess. The Laser Ladies are given little explanation as to whether or not they are sluts for lonely men, or some sort of life-changers. The ambiguities are distracting, as is some of the slapstick aspects of the film. I recognize the film as a fantasy with absurd moments, but that’s not an excuse for lack of quality in writing. Overall, the film has some charming moments, but ends up falling into that average category, where it is neither memorable for being good or being bad. It is but a mystery, a shadow, a whisper, a vanishing dream, a fleeting memory. If I visit TarsTarkas.NET tomorrow and don’t remember writing this review, I will not be surprised.

Rated 5/10 (YES!, Donald SexDuck, Nose for privacy, Loretta Lee, the Real Sui-Yuk)

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