by David Cornelius
The hopes that “My Left Eye Sees Ghosts” would be a giddy skewering of the recent Asian horror boom are, it turns out, for naught. The film is instead a fairly straightforward romantic comedy, by way of a routine ghost yarn.It’s dopey enough to get eyes rolling in all the wrong parts, and yet it’s sweet enough and innocent enough that it’s still quite likable. That’s mostly thanks to the appearance of the always delightful Sammi Cheng. Cheng, a major Hong Kong pop star, seems to have been born for the movies; her infectious charm, unbelievable good looks, and ability to handle both the serious and the silly make her one of those stars that make it impossible to turn away from the screen whenever she’s on it. So even when the story wanders off in all sorts of sloppy directions, when the comedy gets too broad, when the drama gets too sappy, we can always say hey, at least we get to watch Sammi Cheng for a while.
"Or, Sammi Cheng Saves Another Mediocre Movie."
Cheng plays May Ho, whom we first meet as a recent widow. She married her husband only seven days after meeting him, and he died quickly after that. Labeled a gold-digger by his family, she seems determined to live up to the title. One night, while driving drunk, she slams into a wall, only to wake up with the titular extra-sensory condition. Soon she’s stuck balancing her own problems with those of the ghost world, yet (and here’s where we start to wander into that sappy territory) she always wonders why of all the ghosts she sees, her dead husband isn’t among them.
By Cheng’s side is Lau Ching Wan, the veteran of Hong Kong action thrillers (“Running Out of Time” and “Black Mask” are his best known Stateside) who’s taken a complete change of pace. Here, Lau plays Ken, a ghost of a boy who died when he was thirteen; his body (or ghostly version of it, anyway) has aged with time, but his mind is still more or less stuck in junior high. In other words, Lau gets to be comic relief for once, and he sure takes advantage of the situation. His Ken is a wild child, ridiculously dressed, usually pretending to be the guardian of the living or some other superhero fantasy.
And yet, the screenplay (from Au Kin Yee, Yau Nai-Hoi, and co-director Wai Ka-Fai) doesn’t let Lau’s character wallow in cheap comedy for the entire picture. Wisely sensing Lau’s talents, the script slowly builds a more serious side to Ken, allowing a warm relationship to blossom between Ken and May. While overly sentimental in that typically overplayed Hong Kong sort of way, it’s still worthy of quite a few smiles.
For the most part, the script is a series of flighty episodes: an obese ghost yearns to possess May so she can be thin for a while; May’s father keeps bringing around an exorcist to cause trouble; May meets the ghost of the dead girlfriend of the guy who’s been fixing her car (follow that?); etc., etc. For far too long, “Left Eye” seems like two kooky characters with nowhere to go.
So it’s a bit of a relief when the film finally settles down, shaking off (for the most part) its ramshackle design and focusing as much as it can on the friendship of May and Ken, which then leads to a more focused look at May’s emotional state. Years after her husband’s death, she still hasn’t let go, she still hasn’t found the courage to move forward with life. This movie finds her trapped in a limbo of her own making, and what the script finally realizes is that the best material to come from this character is to watch her work her way out.Wai Ka-Fai’s partner in the director’s chair here is Johnny To, the prolific filmmaker who has handled both hard-hitting action and goofy comedy. To has worked in some capacity with all of this film’s major players - Wai is a frequent co-director, Au and Yau are his usual writers, Lau is his most frequent leading man, and Cheng is a regular of his comedies. The feeling here, then, is one of family. Working with such familiar faces brings out a light attitude in the movie’s stars, an attitude that’s contagious. While the screenplay slacks too often, it’s quite forgivable, really. “Left Eye” may be corny, it may be over-the-top, but it’s also oh-so-pleasant. And if nothing else, hey, at least we get to watch Sammi Cheng for a while.
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originally posted: 10/11/05 18:32:43