Movie Review: A Fantastic Ghost Wedding (2014) Sandra Ng, Mark Lee

Sandra Ng Mark Lee A Fantastic Ghost Wedding movie still

A film more meaningful than funny that troubled kids should bring their parents to watch

Hong Kong actors have been taking up roles in Singapore and Malaysia in recent years, and none of them has been particularly good. This time it’s Hong Kong’s award-winning Golden Chicken Sandra Ng paired up with Singaporean star Mark Lee in a rather heartfelt more than ticklish Singaporean comedy drama.

Not directed by Jack Neo, Sandra Ng plays Wu, an overprotective mother whose teenage son Peng (Wang Po-Chieh) has just died mysteriously and is still trying to do her utmost to care and decide everything for him in the afterlife by “sending” him unnecessary items. After a harsh confrontation with his son in her dream, she is recommended by a funeral business owner to help find her son a wife to please him. Without the knowledge of his husband (Jim Chim), she hires 11-year-old spirit medium Boy (Keane Chan) and his forceful father Master Wong (Mark Lee) as the matchmakers to help find Peng the perfect bride and organise the wedding. Things go unexpectedly chaotic as secrets are slowly revealed.

Wang Po-Chieh A Fantastic Ghost Wedding movie still

This is a typical Singaporean comedy where the dialogues are unrealistically cheesy and exaggerated, with a harsh elementary teacher that would simply accuse and humiliate a kid in front of his classmates for lying about his spirit-catching adventures with his father. Perhaps director and co-writer Meng Ong (Police and Thief TV series, Miss Wonton) thought that his sitcom tricks could work in a feature film like this as well. Although Mark Lee may still be funny no matter how many times he does the same joke of being an Ah Beng who tries to converse in English, majority of the humour is a bit too local family-oriented for my liking. But the visual effects of the afterlife, a realm of burnt paper materials of Chinese beliefs, is pretty cool. Pity there’s only one very short scene of that. If only more of the movie’s happenings were in this imagination of afterlife. Definitely a missed opportunity there.

The story also relies a lot on convenience and has some plot holes like Wu’s complete memory-blockage of her conversation with her son right before his death, and Boy’s unreasonable doubts and lack of experience in the spirit rituals despite already being popular and credible for it (and also some of the events in the film that sort of prove that his dad’s methods are not a scam). Child actor Keane Chan tries very hard but fails to truly engage audience emotionally. Director Meng Ong didn’t manage to get the father and son chemistry between Chan and Mark Lee going.

Mark Lee Sandra Ng A Fantastic Ghost Wedding movie still

However, the concept of matchmaking a departed son tied up with messages to address these social issues is quite fresh, interesting and even challenging for a Singaporean film. It is also somewhat heartfelt despite the underdevelopment of the characters and their relationships, all thanks to Sandra Ng and Jim Chim’s onscreen chemistry and committed performances, and the dramatic sequences with retro-sounding ballads. But it is, sadly, quite a waste of the hilarious comedic side of Ng and Chim as they could’ve delivered way more if there were more jokes to offer.

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The ending is rushed and predictably cliched but the film, in overall, does well enough to convey its messages on acceptance, parenting, teenage tragedy and the other thing that I can’t mention here as it is a spoiler. In a nutshell, A Fantastic Ghost Wedding is watchable and considerably meaningful despite its flaws, especially for parents who tend to decide everything for their children regardless of how they feel, but it lacks of good gags to make it a memorable Singaporean comedy for all ages.

What I would’ve named the film: “The Search for a Human Bride for a Ghost”

Malaysia Censorship: Nothing was cut at the gala premiere held at TGV 1 Utama 2 weeks before its official release here but it wasn’t classified with a rating by FINAS yet that time. However, I highly doubt it’d be chopped unless our local censorship board strictly disallows any sort of empathy for the subject.

Second opinion: My girlfriend said that movie isn’t that great but at least it means something.

Verdict: Slightly better than what the trailer suggests, so do watch the trailer first to lower your expectations.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

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