Wednesday, June 26, 2013

"Slow Boat Home" Review

"Slow Boat Home" had promoted itself to be a refreshing youth-oriented and romantic lighthearted comedy. While the first half of the series did manage to be quite enjoyable and deliver many laughs, a closer look and one can easily tell that it quickly morphed into another typical TVB family drama. Although quite funny in its earlier episodes, it became yet another series with poorly written story lines weeded together and love stories that lacked a romantic factor that turned it lackluster and draggy.

The four leads all deliver, but the development and outline of their characters was sloppy.

Raymond Wong is solid as always and delivers as "Cheung Bo Jai". The character would have easily become annoying with his obnoxiousness in the early episodes, but instead Raymond made him quite hilarious. Yet, Cheung Bo Jai found himself primarily pining after Bo Bo (portrayed by Aimee Chan) and caught in the middle of family drama, lacking his own direction in life. Although he has a dream of owning his own boat, not much is ever done with this subplot until - you guessed it - he buys himself a huge yacht in the last episode.

Aimee Chan is surprisingly pleasant and very likable as "Bo Bo". She is charming and appears very comfortable onscreen due to the tailor made role and casual atmosphere. However, it is actually her character that puzzles me the most with her odd actions and behavior. She so readily settled down into life at Cheung Chau and gave up her career as a director that it was simply bizarre. I find it hard to believe Bo Bo would not return to New York when she could, had such a good attitude about working as a waitress when she was formerly a director, and so easily gave up on looking for her father (the reason she came to Cheung Chau) after learning it is not Mui Kei (portrayed by Ngok Wah).

As a huge fan of Ruco Chan, I become giddy every time I start a new series with him as lead. Now, this giddiness literally lasted all through out "The Other Truth", yet wore off for me here after just a
few episodes. Why? "Fit Wing" offers absolutely no challenge to Ruco's acting skills and range, and didn't present much more substance than that of a fool blinded by love.

Selena Li is given more of an acting challenge with "Heidi", who goes from greedy to good to being even more greedy than before and finally back to well, volunteer work doing, no make up wearing good. She does what she can with the role and it's nice to see her exercising her abilities a bit, but Heidi's character changes were abrupt and poorly done.

As said above, the love stories lack actual romance. Ruco and Selena share so much sweet and genuine chemistry, yet Fit Wing and Heidi's relationship was a constant back and forth with Heidi's regression, hurting and using Ruco as well as his loved ones time and time again, only to end with him forgiving her. And then the cycle repeats again. And again. Their relationship was dysfunctional and kept suffering the same setbacks. I feel teased that two such lovable and endearing onscreen love interests were given such a terrible love line.

Raymond and Aimee's line fared better. They were entertaining during their take as the classic bickering rivals turned couple, but I failed to see when Aimee started to return Raymond's feelings for her. Although they were fun together and shared chemistry, they too lacked romance.

However, "Slow Boat Home"'s most significant setback is how disconnected from each other the four main characters are. At first, the series seemed to tell two completely different stories, with one taking place in Cheung Chau and one in Hong Kong. Although this improved when Ruco and Selena's characters relocated back to Cheung Chau, it still couldn't hide the fact that the four were very much disconnected and lacked cohesion.

Friendship was a theme that would have been enjoyable to see develop, but the bonds beyond the two couples was not explored. Aimee and Ruco do not even share a scene together until almost halfway into the series, and Raymond and Selena had almost no interactions despite being childhood friends. It focused almost solely on the two couples and unnecessary family drama.

The most enjoyable aspect of the series though, was the bromance friendship between Raymond, Ruco and Matt Yeung. The three guys appeared very comfortable together and their friendship looked realistic, resulting in fun and warm scenes. However, these scenes were limited, particularly with Matt's minimal screen time and once again, disconnection to the group overall. Poor "Chuen So Kei" was constantly lost about what was going on between the four and almost consistently the last to find out.

Easily the most refreshing thing about "Slow Boat Home" is its location filming in Cheung Chau. It was a breath of fresh air to not see the same boring sets and filming sites yet again and instead see the natural beauty of this small town. Of course, this alone was not able to keep "Slow Boat Home" entertaining and fresh.

What becomes most evident about halfway through the series is that there is no actual point to it. There is no central story line, and just a bunch of poorly written story lines weeded together while the two main couples were pushed apart and back again and again. Not only does it become mixed with trite family drama, but allows itself to fall victim to cliched and random story lines like Oceane Zhu's and Elaine Yiu's. These subplots added nothing to the overall story (whatever that was) and seemed like they were simply included to drag out the series length. In addition, Lee Yee Man's character can probably go down as the most annoying character of the year.

Here's a fun fact: when the series was first proposed, it was supposed to have a music theme and showcase the musical talents of the cast. Ruco and Aimee were to play together on the guitar and piano respectively. Sadly, what showed up in the final script was Ruco strumming random guitar chords two or three times and no use of music as a theme. This is disappointing as it could have helped make "Slow Boat Home" more refreshing, particularly with its musically inclined cast (Ruco can play guitar and sing, Aimee can play piano, Selena can sing and compose and plays the piano, and Cilla was originally a singer). My guess is TVB backed out of this original concept to ease and simplify the filming and production process, since they love taking the easy way out. I would have loved to see music incorporated into this series.

Overall, "Slow Boat Home" is a series that starts off funny and entertaining, but its humor quickly wears off and goes down the trite family drama route traveled a hundred too many times by TVB series. All four leads are strong and likable, but either poor or inconsistent characterization keeps them from being utilized to full potential. If it weren't for the large amount of free time I have on my hands these days and the main cast, I would probably have dropped it by the last five episodes. There was plenty potential, and marketed as a youth-oriented romantic comedy, it had the opportunity to be something fresh. As most TVB series these days though, it is once again wasted potential.

Rating: 2.5 stars