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Diva - Ah Hey
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Jordan Chan and future "Heavenly Queen" Charlene Choi.
Chinese: 下一站…天后  
Year: 2003  
Director: Joe Ma Wai-Ho  
Writer: Joe Ma Wai-Ho  
Cast: Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin, Jordan Chan Siu-Chun, Niki Chow Lai-Kei, Shawn Yue Man-Lok, Chapman To Man-Chat, Lam Suet, Wyman Wong Wai-Man, Belinda Hamnett, Hyper BB, Lo Meng, Hiro Hayama
The Skinny: Joe Ma's recent streak of engaging yet tepid comedies continues. Diva - Ah Hey has the cute factor locked up thanks to Charlene Choi, and the characters are likably well-drawn. However, the meandering plot, numbing pace and minor laughs don't help much. There's still a lot to like, though it may not be immediately obvious.
 
Review
by Kozo:

Joe Ma takes on Hong Kong popular culture with Diva - Ah Hey, his latest in a series of overwhelmingly mellow comedies. The Cantonese title of the film (Ha yaat jaam...Tin Hau) has multiple meanings, the most literal being "Next stop Tin Hau," an actual stop on Hong Kong's convenient Mass Transit Railway system. However, a more appropriate meaning for this film would be "Next stop Heavenly Queen," which refers to the top female singers in the ever-saturated Cantopop stratosphere. Given that title, you'd expect Diva - Ah Hey to be a Cinderella story about a girl's storybook ascendance to Cantopop's highest level. Strangely, that's really not what this film is about.

Taller Twin Charlene Choi stars as Ah Hey, an impossibly positive and perky girl who desires to be a top Cantopop star. She begs her fishmonger father (Lam Suet) to introduce her to Harry (Jordan Chan), an old family friend who currently manages the career of new idol singer Shadow (Niki Chow). Harry shoots Ah Hey down without hesitation, but he hires her on as an assistant. Soon, Ah Hey is working with Harry, Shadow and Wing (Shawn Yue), the company chauffeur. She's content to help out, biding her time for her own personal shot at stardom.

Still, "working" with her new pals is not exactly easy. Harry thinks Shadow has no talent and is only managing her because his boss likes her. Shadow doesn't communicate directly with Harry, and is frequently lazy and irresponsible. And, both pick on poor Wing, who carries a torch for Shadow, yet still finds the time to be combative and mouthy. Add all this to the usual double-talk and obsequious behavior you expect from the entertainment industry, and Ah Hey can only come to one conclusion: everyone is crazy.

But thanks to a fluke of Shadow's laziness, Ah Hey gets to sing one of Shadow's debut songs—which is received incredibly well by the higher-ups. Rather than reveal the truth about who actually sang the demo, Harry loses his spine and pretends that it was Shadow instead. He even asks Ah Hey to sing the rest of the album, which runs counter to her plans for self-stardom. However, thanks to Ah Hey's grounded morals and totally chipper attitude, she manages to stay the course. She agrees to ghost sing for Shadow, but only if her new "family" starts to communicate and settle their differences. Yes, Ah Hey desires love and happiness for her new friends, and sacrifices her own personal advancement to acheive that goal. If she weren't so damned cute, she could probably apply for sainthood.

Diva - Ah Hey rides Charlene Choi's cuteness for all its worth, which apparently is quite a bit. Much of the film's more pleasing charms are derived from Choi's mug, which is featured in more than a few massive close-ups. Her chipmunk cheer and Hello Kitty-like cuddliness works wonders for anyone who possesses even a little "aw shucks" in them. And her co-stars are good, too. Jordan Chan underplays charismatically, and Niki Chow and Shawn Yue make an amusingly compatible couple. There's a lot to like in the pleasant interplay of Ah Hey's new "family," and the characters seems remarkably well-rounded, if not wholly realistic.

Still, Joe Ma gives them questionable stuff to do. Diva - Ah Hey may win the battle of the likable characters, but it's on the losing end of a cohesive, compelling narrative. Despite the rich source material, there's remarkably little edge to the storyline. The entertainment industry gets skewered in small ways (Hyper BB's scummy agent, and Chapman To's goofy pop actor), and the characters experience only minor ephiphanies. Even more, the epiphanies are handled with a numbing subtlety. It's nice that Ma attempts some "show not tell" with this movie, but attempting and succeeding are two different things. Ma keeps things moving in an opaque yet inconclusive manner, and he neglects to punctuate many of his scenes. As a result the film seems to plod from beginning to end, with more than a few slow patches. Some drama and laughs are created, but it's all rather mild.

Not that the movie's bad. Despite the lack of any real urgency, the film has a rather pleasant feel. And when the climax rolls around, it actually produces some decent emotions. Ah Hey may want to be a "Heavenly Queen," but her introduction to the big, bad entertainment world is as frightening as it is enticing. What Ah Hey finds is that her Cinderella story may be within reach, but that she may not yet be strong enough to handle the accompanying baggage. In that small bit of character work, Joe Ma makes Diva - Ah Hey infinitely more affecting than, say, The Lion Roars. And having Charlene Choi deliver that minor lesson makes it all the more palatable. Joe Ma has specialized in bringing familiar, affecting emotions to his work, and he follows suit here—except that his storytelling can be uneven and almost boring to behold. Watching Diva - Ah Hey is like taking a warm bath: it can put you sleep, but it's also pleasant and quite enjoyable. (Kozo 2003)

 
Awards: 23rd Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
• Nomination - Best Song ("Haai Yat Jaam - Tin Hau", performed by Charlene Choi Cheuk-Yin)
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Mei Ah Entertainment
2-Disc Set
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable Chinese and English Subtitles

image courtesy of Mei Ah Entertainment

 
 
 
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