Cheng admits his cradle-robbing tendencies in My Wife
is 18, from prolific writer-director James Yuen. Cheng
is Thirteen Cheung, a thirty year-old grad student living
in the UK. He's been unable to graduate for many years,
as his pet thesis project - about women - has always earned
him derision and a swift "fail" from the all-women
panel of judges. Cheung doesn't want to change his thesis
because he's spent too many years trying to perfect it.
Finally, he has to admit the truth: he just doesn't understand
women very well.
Luckily, Cheung is about to
get a crash course in the fairer sex. His senile grandmother
desires to see him married before she passes on, so Cheung
agrees to a quickie arranged marriage. The other party is
Yoyo Ma (Charlene Choi), an eighteen year-old HK student
who's agreeing to the marriage to satisfy her parents. Cheung
and Yoyo have no illusions about any lasting bliss; they
expect to be divorced within a year.
However, situation comedy
occurs - big time. Cheung decides to visit HK to get out
of the UK for awhile, and stays with Yoyo at her request.
The arrangement is supposed to be one of convenience, but
things escalate rather quickly. Yoyo offers to become the
subject of his thesis, and even plans to introduce him to
her schoolmates at her all-girl school. Cheung does her
one better and actually becomes a teacher at the aforementioned
school, which leads to the expected shtick as the two pretend
to not know one another. This proves more difficult than
imagined, as the two are married, but not really a couple.
However, when Cheung gets involved with virginal PE teacher
Miss Lee (Bernice Liu), Yoyo's hand is forced. Sort of.
The circumstances which bring
Yoyo and Cheung together are as manufactured and illogical
as you'd expect from a film starring two of EEG's lineup
of popstars. The characters hardly feel realistic; Cheung
is an immature thirty year-old who openly admits to not
understanding women, yet makes them the subject of his thesis,
anyway. Still, Cheung is a likable enough guy, only because
Ekin Cheng plays him with zero pretensions. This may be
the first film in ten trillion years where Ekin Cheng is
not a ladykiller or a supercool triad/racer/kung-fu guy.
Cheung is a likable, near-virginal dope, and a welcome change
of pace for a Man Called Ekin.
The character of Yoyo fares slightly
better, as she's one of those deceptively flighty types
who masks genuine feelings of inadequacy and fear. As played
by Charlene Choi, she's a winning, if somewhat cloying romantic
lead. Choi's girlish acting is more than a little overdone,
but her enthusiasm and raw emotion are beguiling. She makes
a winning, believable girl, though perhaps that's because
Choi (at age twenty) is really still just a girl. She and
Cheng share a fun chemistry, and their explicitly-discussed
age difference makes for good romantic comedy fodder.
If only the film truly gave
them stuff to do. While the characters and actors can be
enjoyable, the plot cooked up by James Yuen, and Andy Lo
is a loosely connected series of mildly entertaining jokes
and forgotten subplots - some of which are all-too-familiar
and not interesting. The supposed main plotline of Cheung
using Yoyo as his thesis subject is underdeveloped and just
plain silly, and the ultimate resolution is neither surprising
or particularly compelling. The film ends how you expect
it would, and without much fanfare or emotionally-involving
revelations. This is one lightweight movie.
Still, My Wife is 18 is amiable enough stuff and has pretty people in spades.
Those who like Ekin Cheng (and even those who usually don't)
could get a kick out of his dopey character. He's still
not much of an actor, but he can be a likable presence.
And despite her overexposed Twins pedigree, Charlene Choi
could be around HK Cinema for quite a while. My Wife
is 18 isn't a great movie, but considering Hong Kong
Cinema's recent lack of quality output, this amusing trifle
is not without its charms. As pop cinema goes, you could
certainly do worse. (Kozo 2002)