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Nine Girls and a Ghost
"Whaddya mean we'll never work again?"     "Oh crap! It's the media!"

(left) Stephy Tang and Edison Chen, and (right) Cookies react.
Chinese: 9個女仔1隻鬼  
Year: 2002  
Director: Chung Shu-Kai  
Producer: Raymond Wong Bak-Ming, Simon Lui Yu-Yeung, Philip Chan Yan-Kin, Peter Chan Chi-Keung
Producer: Chung Shu-Kai, Simon Lui Yu-Yeung, Kelvin Lee Ho-Cheung
Cast: Edison Chen, Stephy Tang Lai-Yun, Miki Yeung Oi-Gan, Theresa Fu Wing, Helena Ma Si-Hung, Serena Po Sai-Yi, Angela Au Man-Si, Kary Ng Yiu-Fei, Elaine Ho Yi-Ling, Gloria Chan So-Ying, Cyrus Wong Ka-Ming, Tats Lau Yi-Tat, Philip Chan Yan-Kin, Lee Fung, Chapman To Man-Chat, Amanda Lee Wai-Man, Sharon Chan Man-Chi
The Skinny: Teenybopper fluff for teenyboppers. Yeah, this is not a good movie. Yeah, teenage girls and boys probably thought it was pretty damn good. It's all relative.
by Kozo:

Okay, we can do this the easy way or the hard way.

The easy way: Nine Girls and a Ghost is made-to-order fluff for its target audience. Screaming teens who dig Edison Chen and the nine girl members of Cookies will probably go wild over the canned platitudes and generally pleasant giggles on display here. Nothing really challenging happens, and that's just the way they like it. The thirteen year-old in me stayed awake and only talked on my cell phone once.

The hard way: This is cinematic regurgitation from the braintrust of Mandarin Films. Head honcho Raymond Wong didn't have to dig too deep for the premise of this film; it was used umpteen years ago in his popular Happy Ghost series. The concept was cheap and cheesy then; it's cheap and cheesy now. Actual filmmaking was probably banned from the set, and anybody with an original idea was beaten before being summarily fired. The thirty year-old in me was mildly amused for forty-five minutes, after which a numbness washed over me that might have been the first stages of brain atrophy. I welcomed the sensation.

Maligned pretty boy Edison Chen stars as the titular ghost, who comes into the life of Kaka (lead Cookie Stephy Tang) when she recieves a Mini Cooper which previously belonged to him. At first his spirit is confined to her car, but before the film can become Edison Chen is The Love Bug, a mass of bubbles shoots out the tailpipe and coalesces into Chen's magnificent form. Girls swoon, and the sound of creaking wood can be heard. Kaka is frightened at first, since her brother Evans (Cyrus Wong) warned her that the car was haunted. Luckily, he's cute; she falls for her new spectral buddy immediately.

However, the Ghost has other plusses. Aside from being mega-hot, he also has powers which enable Kaka to rule the world, or in this case, her high school. She and her group of eight pals need help to cheat on their exams and, more importantly, trounce their rivals during intraschool athletic tournaments. The nine girls call themselves The Cookies, which could rate as the most original thing in this film. Another good name for them would be Lazy and Annoying Cookies. Teenage girls might wish for better media representation; they're portrayed here as generally insensitive, materialistic whiners who only care for their pet hobbies. Each Cookie has a "thing" which defines them: food, fighting, the stock market, cleanliness, makeup, wacky Chinese medicine or something else. Since Kaka is the main Cookie, her specialty is looking adorable despite questionable acting ability.

Up to this point, Nine Girls and a Ghost actually manages some form of fluffy amusement. The dialogue and acting are average-to-nonexistent, and nothing of import happens. Then again, some of the sitcom setup is winning in that Disney Sunday Movie-type way. Watching Kaka use her ghost-given powers to pull off Shaolin Soccer-type moves on the basketball court can be amusing (even though the SFX are mighty fake-looking). It's also a welcome event to have Edison Chen mope around in a film without calling anyone "dog." This isn't Johnnie To, but it's not offensive either.

Then, one hour in, things start to get worse. First, there's a wacky time-out for a Cookies musical number, which is great for fans of Cookies, but probably torture for those who are not. Then there's the appearance of life lessons which were designed by adults to make their children better people, or at least get them to clean up their rooms. Either way, the film urges its teenage audience to care for others, actually try once in a while, and stop cheating on their exams. Minor romance gets found, victory is won through actual effort, and the selfish cute girls drop the "selfish" tag just in time to bid Edison Chen a teary farewell. This is the textbook definition of easy-to-please cinema.

Which is why it's hard to really knock Nine Girls and a Ghost for being anything other than what it is: made-to-order fluff. Really, it's impossible to review a film like this because it's designed to please just its target audience and not everyone else. I happen to be in the "everyone else." I don't know the Cookies, Edison Chen reminds me of my younger cousin before he got his act together, and the canned exploits of evil high school girls are as interesting to me as whale spit.

But the movie also has what counts: cute girls, cute guy, easy-to-digest pathos and an amiable production which fits the people who probably buy the Cookies' albums. Those who desire to check out Nine Girls and a Ghost will get exactly what they expect, which is likely what they want. A guy like me? I get to exercise my brain trying to figure out which Cookie is which, and I get to wonder which Cookie is singing at what time. I also get to wonder if Edison Chen is really such a bad choice for the lead in the proposed Initial D movie (honestly, he might be OK as Takumi Fujiwara), and I get yet another chance to see Tats Lau, Amanda Lee and Chapman To (who was in every other film in 2002). And I get the chance to load a movie review with wall-to-wall witticisms which may amuse or anger. This movie is what it is, which isn't too hard to figure out. As for whether it's really any good, the answer pretty much depends on who you are. It's all relative. (Kozo 2003)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
ERA Home Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
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image ERA Home Entertainment, Ltd. Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen