Review: “Slow Boat Home” (By Funn)
Slow Boat Home <情越海岸線>
Hong Kong TVB Drama 2013
Producer: Leung Choi Yuen
Genre: Romantic comedy
“Because I bet this is those type of series where one time is quite enough.”
Ruco Chan, Aimee Chan, Matt Yeung, Selena Li, Raymond Wong, Cilla Kung, Cheung Kwok Keung, Ram Cheung, Eric Li, Angelina Lo, Elliot Ngok, Susan Tse
Patrick Tang, Oceane Zhu, Elaine Yiu
See here at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_Boat_Home
I was severely disappointed with the confused (not confusing but the series itself is confused with itself) Bullet Brain, not remotely interested in (the tired looking) Beauty At War and so when Slow Boat Home came along, I wrongly thought I got to see scenery of Malaysia. Turns out that is another series with almost the same cast.
Well, it is to me fair to say Slow Boat Home is the best amongst the worst. I do not believe it will ever have a cult following, it will not age well in time, story wise it is cliche, storytelling wise it is empty and performance wise, a waste of some good actors but not really populated by great actors. For me, like the title, it is like a boat adrift in calm sea. Nothing exciting ever happens, nothing dangerous, just people on a boat adrift at sea without oars and slowly, very slowly drifting back to the distant shores which you can see but not yet reach and when it almost reaches the shores, a wave pushes it backwards with some thunder, lighting, rain but nothing that can kill anyone on board and slowly in the end it reaches the shore without much welcome, impact or anything worthy of remembrance. It was simply a boat reaching the shore after a few days on a calm sea.
That is how I will describe the series.
In depth description requires a little knowledge about the plot which you can read here at wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_Boat_Home).
When I was watching this, I felt like I was watching 2 series totally unconnected if not for the fact they all come from Cheung Chau. One side you have Raymond Wong and Aimee Chan providing the silly laughs and I do mean slapstick laugh. If not I can’t justify why Raymond was given that god awful hairstyle if not for some cheap laughs. Later on he ditched the hair (thank goodness) and you will of course appreciate Raymond’s physique but still the character is just sometimes too juvenile to justify any laughs.
Aimee meanwhile walks around dressed perpetually like she is in Bali or somewhere near a beach. She talks in English and Cantonese and this time it is fair for her character to have a skewered Cantonese since she is from New York I believe even if her English is a bit too put on for my taste even if she is Canadian. The unintentionally funny thing about her lines is she will start with English and the next line is Cantonese and almost always the case where the Cantonese is a translation of what she said in English. So basically she is her own translator and I was wondering why bother with repetition? Basically I am ok with her performance. I am neither wowed by her nor am I irritated. I do feel Aimee is becoming a better actress than most credit her for but she is still weak in the sense she starts her dialogue strong, clear and crisp and a few sentences later, it is difficult to hear what she is saying whereby she will end with almost always a sigh, as if the lines were too “heavy” for her. So basically, what Aimee does best is short lines, no more than 2 lines, if not I doubt most can hear what she is saying. And she speaks much too fast in the beginning of the sentence as well and towards the end with an abrupt stop. I find this her most annoying feature but other than that, I find her performance convincing even though I am not convinced why her character would fall for Raymond’s character who in the end betrayed her. However I like their kissing scenes. There is chemistry, it is fresh chemistry even if the writing, the story and the pair doesn’t really make much sense. But don’t tax yourself too much; it isn’t supposed to make sense anyway.
Next pair is a pair I never liked from the start, that is Ruco Chan and Selena Li. This is like another series within this series where this pair is overly serious, overly dramatic and without any humour. You will feel more of that sudden switch of emotions when the series in any episode switches between these 2 pair. I felt like one was too sunny and the other like sudden darkness.
Ruco is a charming man and I dare say, with the right script, can be as subtle as he is dramatic. He is a good actor that needs one major character to be great. In here, he is simply wasted. Absolutely wasted and is pushed down to the grade of a desperately in love with the bad girl sort of nice guy. And it is this sort of nice guy that I hate to watch. Time and time again he is duped, lied to, used, tricked and yet he forgives, time and time again. Is the woman so worth his time? Well, if she is Selena, perhaps.
Selena is the bad girl turned good turned bad turned 360 degrees good like Mother Theresa – like towards the end. And serious, yes she did sorta become that sort of goody two shoes where get this… she volunteered to do charity work, got a tan, does not care about her looks, dressed down with a knapsack and got an award for being the kindest nicest gentlest angel that she is. Frankly by that time I really didn’t care. She can be Saint Heidi for that matter, I don’t care, I just wanted this series to bloody end. What I did care was why must Ruco’s character end up with Selena’s character? 3 years have passed, why can’t he date another woman? Why can’t he end up with Elaine Yiu’s character, the Internet romance author who could be Tong Hua, the only woman with sense and a bit of integrity and is playful as much as she is cold? But nope, had to be Ruco and Selena because that’s the pair, since day 1. Anyway Selena was serviceable but just about that and nothing more. She like Cilla does not adjust to the role; the role adjust to her. She is the same as in every single series even if one series she is kind, the other manipulative but when it comes to Selena, kind, manipulative, whatever almost equal to same expressions, same sort of high pitched voice. She may feel challenged by this change in character she portrays usually, I feel challenged to stay focused on her. She is pretty, but as an actress, I don’t see big things from her, not unless she stops being so bloody fluffy and so predictable.
To say the series and the pairing is predictable is one thing, a lot of TVB series is predictable but it doesn’t make much sense for Slow Boat Home in its predictability. Sense as in what is the purpose of Slow Boat Home? Am I supposed to clap happily in the end and cry with tears of joy of true love and happy reunion where this stupid boring pair hijacked a school reunion gathering for their own declaration of love? Must everything be so showy, so publicly expressed and so in your face?
The ending episode was 45 minutes, but this series should have ended 3 episodes ago. The entire last episode was a waste of time with the time passed, as if to give some urgency which doesn’t exist. We all know how it will end but I never thought it was that cheesy.
The veterans didn’t fare better.
Susan Tse was a miscast. She looks troubled, confused and was severely underused. She should be in grand productions as the grand empress or something, not an unknown small time auntie on a small island. She has this sense of grandeur and I feel this series is unbefitting of her. And she isn’t convincing in this sort of role.
Same goes for Elliot Ngok as father of Raymond Wong, the serious respect elder of Cheung Chau who has more sense than a lot of people. He is probably one of the few enjoyable characters in here but why I say miscast is because this role is sorta similar with the cafe owner and father of spoilt child in Reality Check played by Law Lok Lam who was more convincing as the strict father who doesn’t quite understand his child. However the role in Slow Boat Home is of course much larger but I feel I don’t feel the father-son connection. I feel the chemistry between Elliot and Raymond as father and son is missing. I feel this sort of role has been perfected by Kent Cheng and I can see no one else in this role, except maybe Law Lok Lam who can be quite funny at times as he is dead serious.
There was the odd pairing of Cheung Kwok Keung and Angelina Lo (never knew she was Angelina!) where she looked more like his sister than his wife. The only interesting time was when Angelina as mother of Ruco disliked Selena. But that wasn’t expanded and was quickly solved.
There were odd characters here and there, the standout for me was the pretty and talented Oceane Zhu as the crazy woman but again, she is just a side story. Elaine Yiu who has improved a lot since Safe Guards is also effected as So Fung Nei with a convenient twist to the plot in the end with regards to Pou Pou played by Aimee. Ram Chiang is the comic relief in here and I find his performance annoying. His character may be suffering from Asperger Syndrome, I don’t know but I don’t care for the loud flat voice. Not every character works for Ram, unfortunately. Patrick Tang was sleazy but he wasn’t convincing as the sleazy douchebag who happens to be very rich. I can’t remember the name of the actress who plays Patrick’s wife, but she is pretty and a decent performance but her entire character seems merely to annoy Selena’s Heidi. Very little purpose other than that. Eric Li to me was fantastic. He has more chemistry with Raymond Wong than anyone else and he plays a despicable character in here who has the best and most moving ending in the end. I mean you won’t cry or anything but I suppose you will go “Good for him!” Matt Yeung is the nice guy in here and it is a good change from the jerk, douchebag and bad guy roles but he has nothing much to do except to look innocent and in the cheesiest ending, get promoted to manager of the postal office after getting his degree. I mean why stop there? Since the ending is always defined by success story, make him CEO, COO or CFO of whatever corporation of his own? Cilla Kung is cute, pretty and in here dressed very very sexily in the beginning and after some hard lessons, toned down her looks. What can I say about Cilla without mentioning why must she shout her lines? She seems to be playing the same sort of characters in every series when in fact she has different character but she acts the same in every character she is given. She is the Michael Bay of actresses; seriously loud, seriously dramatic. I won’t say she is a bad actress but I just wish she understands that sometimes subtlety can deliver more than being loud.
This series may work better if it is a long running series where it centres on the guests and many side stories of people who visits Cheung Chau and the many permanent residents rather than focusing on the residents with a few walk ins. But that would require a better writer and a consistent one but at least there is room for growth and will suit the tone of how great Cheung Chau is. But then this series uses Cheung Chau as the backdrop in such a significant way, it can be about any island, any place.
Anyway, I have been reading news articles about this series and the performances, of course everything is favourable but let’s be honest here;
You are probably watching this series because there is nothing else from TVB at this moment that is worth watching.
You are probably enjoying watching this series because everything else is either confusing or gloomy and you want a series that is bright, sort of happy and with a predictable storyline that doesn’t stretch your imagination or require much of your attention.
You are probably gonna hate my review and defend this series because you think you like it and I was being too bitchy about the nitty-gritty.
You may also probably hate to admit you find the ending supremely ordinary and without much imagination. You may even hate to admit you disliked this series, at least the ending or maybe you will love the ending because it is a happy ending, some of you may probably rejoice because it has an ending and it ended.
You will probably question me why then did I bother to watch the entire series and write a review if I dislike it so much? Why not just don’t bother? The answer is somewhere above by the way.
Whatever your sentiments, if it is a positive one towards this review, may I say welcome to the “TVB you gottta be kidding me by giving me this crap but I’d rather this cheerful no pressure crap than the other previous craps served on me” club. If it is a negative one towards this review, I challenge you to rewatch this series in its entirety and then tell me, do you like it the 2nd time around? Why not try a 3rd time? Because I bet this is those type of series where one time is quite enough.
Just once. You can only take BS just once and then you wise up and yet remain hopeful the next offering will be better, that it will be TVB’s return to form.
The next one is A Change Of Heart and 1 episode of Michael Miu’s god awful acting was enough for me.
So yeah… maybe I am too optimistic but again I won’t predict TVB’s demise. But the dip in recent quality of series may be the sign that there is a serious brain drain in TVB’s storytelling department and maybe it is time to let the storytellers tell the stories the way they want to rather than executives want it. I am not sure if this is the case in TVB but I have hope against hopes but I am not hopeful for the next few months of series which has been filmed around the time where crap is often served. Maybe next year.
I don’t hate it, I just feel nothing. Strictly for fans of the actors in the series or if you’re sick on dark gloomy artistic pretentious crap and prefers some sunny, optimistic, happy crap. This is for you then. If not, just avoid it, pop in the DVD of your most favourite TVB series and watch that.
This review was written by Funn Lim, a Contributing Writer at JayneStars.com, and was originally posted at www.point2e.com.