Pray, pray that Phua Chu Kang goes away ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Pray, pray that Phua Chu Kang goes away

Phua Chu Kang: The Movie
My rating:

Has Phua Chu Kang ever been good? Damned if I know. I do know that the latest episodes of the 13-year-old Singaporean sitcom have been mind-bogglingly awful. Or at least what little I've seen of them, because I've never been able to sit through an entire episode. The show is stupid. To call it broad comedy would be an insult to the entire genre of broad comedy, and it's laughable to think of Singaporeans acting all high and mighty and oh-so-much-more sophisticated than us "ulu" Malaysians when this is their greatest contribution to pop culture. (Ahem. TMBF is no saint; I am not above the friendly rivalry barely-restrained animosity we share with our southern neighbours.)

It is with this entirely fair and balanced viewpoint that I went into Phua Chu Kang: The Movie, and thus came out declaring that it sucks.

Phua Chu Kang (Gurmit Singh) greets his Ah Ma (Neo Swee Ling) who has come to KL to visit her son - but instead, she chooses to stay at the Seow Soon old folks home, spending time with a mysterious resident there. Curious as to what she's up to, Chu Kang bids for a renovation contract with Seow Soon's director Lim Lau Pek (Henry Thia), and enters a heated competition for a much more lucrative contract against his arch-rival Frankie Foo (Lim Kay Siu). Meanwhile, Chu Kang's wife Rosie (Irene Ang) discovers many unsavoury things about Lim; Chu Kang's dimwitted worker King Kong (Charlie Tan) falls for Lim's assistant Angel (Angie Seow); and Ah Ma drops a bombshell on her son - the mysterious old man is his long-believed-dead grandfather (Gurmit Singh).

Well, it's not as bad as I thought - at least not as bad as k0k bL0k's review made it out to be. This is largely because it pretty much does what a theatrical film adaptation of a TV series is supposed to do. It features actors playing well-established roles with the ease and comfort of long experience, plus a few fan-favourite minor characters. The plot has the feel of a story that's large enough to warrant the silver screen; a larger canvas, higher stakes, and more narrative momentum. Director Boris Boo's camera is also a lot more dynamic and cinematic than the typical three-camera sitcom setup. It has everything a PCK fan could expect in a PCK movie, and enough of it to ensure they walk out happy.

But hell no I am not a PCK fan, nor do I wanna know any of 'em. 'Cos the movie is every bit as moronic, unfunny and annoying as the series. The subplot about Chu Kang forgetting his wedding anniversary is as fresh as The Honeymooners. The Nippon Paints product placement is so blatant and tacked-on, I'm surprised a Geoffrey Nicholson voiceover didn't come on. And Gurmit Singh's affectation for playing Chu Kang's grandfather and father in flashbacks makes it impossible to suspend disbelief in the former case - and in the latter, subjects us to cringe-inducing love scenes between Gurmit and Neo Swee Lin. Guys, you've been playing mother and son for 13 years, like, eww. The whole movie is incredibly juvenile; the ones laughing the loudest in my cinema were the kids, and I can only assume the adults I heard chuckling along were busy re-engaging with their inner childs.

And sweet Jinjang Jehosophat, the movie's colour grading. Skin looks green, lips look pink, and the eye-searing colours of Rosie's makeup and Frankie's shirts are even more garish and hideous. It's a very, very ugly movie, and I suspect Boo and the rest of the show's producers did it on purpose. Y'see, PCK started out as a spoof of Ah Bengs - their speech patterns, their fashion sense, and their taste in interior decor. But whatever humour they've been tapping from that vein has long since gone bone-dry, because they're now waaaay past poking fun at it and plunged headlong into reveling in it. Yes, they have become the very thing they once parodied. They're no longer spoofing Ah Beng-ness, they're rubbing the audience's faces in it. They have stared too long into the abyss, and now the abyss stares out of them and into us with every loving close-up of Chu Kang's mole.

Acting? There is none. These may be actors, but there is no acting to be found in this movie; all there is is shtick. Of course, most of the cast have been doing this shtick for the better part of 13 years, thus their ease and comfort that I mentioned earlier. Doesn't make their shtick any less stupid and annoying. What's sad is that you can actually see some glimmers of talent in Gurmit, Ang, Neo and Henry Thia, and I'm sure they've demonstrated it in other shows and films they've done. I wonder how they keep from feeling like they're debasing their craft doing crap like this - or have they just gone way past that and into simply enjoying their paychecks.

And yet I'm giving it 2 stars, having said earlier that it's not as bad as I thought. I am forced to arrive at this conclusion because, looking at the kind of movie I usually give 1-½ stars to, I am forced to admit that something like this would be a small improvement over the typical Malay movie. (At least it has a plot.) But now that I've brought it up, I have this to say to fans of this ridiculously inane TV-show-turned-movie: you don't watch local films? You couldn't be paid to go see 'em, wouldn't be caught dead watching 'em? You think they're stupid and unfunny and insulting to your intelligence? Phua Chu Kang: The Movie is the same. Thus it is quite appropriate that I label it under "Made in Malaysia". If you enjoyed it, you should catch Senario Asam Garam next.

NEXT REVIEW: Going the Distance
Expectations: this looks like it could be good


k0k s3n w4i said...

good lordy, you really do take your time with your reviews.

turns out the scriptwriter, sm ong (ong su mann), has a blog. in a post, he said that he would not be seeing the film even though he wrote the thing and when i asked him why, he replied me through my gmail asking me to read this post of his,

I’m scared to watch PCK movie because it may kill me

i also asked him a couple of other questions which he was kind enough to answer.

when i asked him to what extent nippon paint had creative control over the film's production, he said,

"Yes, nippon paint paid a lot of money for the product placement to be in the script. They were very specific about what they wanted."

the other question i asked was if the mindblowing ineptitude of our PDRM an intentional commentary on his part. said he,

"No, it was not the intention to show the malaysian cops as inept in the script."

i was hoping that it was intentional, but oh well... there was literally a scene where [SPOILERS] a guy (after the old man he was holding hostage fainted and fell to the ground) could just stand there saying repeatedly that he did not kill the codger while the cops just stand by the protagonists and not taking the chance take him out. i can't remember for sure but i think at this point, the baddie already dropped his weapon.[/SPOILERS]

i asked a 3rd thing, which was if he could let me read the original script so i can see how much the movie departed from his original vision. that, he ignored :(

i don't have much to add to your review aside from the fact that the movie only managed to assemble half the original cast members from the sitcom back when it was most popular. i mean, even the arrested development flick had a leery start before they managed to get michael cera back on board. in this case, they are missing PCK's english educated architect brother and his wife, a shrewy vegetarian upper-classer. this i find unacceptable because hate it or love it, the sitcom is at heart a family drama and having all the dramatic elements transferred to an entirely new, never-before-seen or mentioned character (PCK's great grandfather) was not a very smart thing to do. besides, the strongest bond within the series had always been between PCK and his brother. a story focused on that would be more engaging to fan like me, say. the greatest source of comedy was always the social differences between margaret (PCK's sister in law) and the alpha ah-beng couple. i always saw PCK the series as a class comedy, and when ALL the characters are caricatures of wacky ah bengs, it became old VERY fast.

gurmit singh is amazing and should definitely serve his talents better in a real movie - i was most impressed by his linguistic repertoire. i just wonder why talented comedians tend to end up acting in lousy movies in which they play two roles? is this some kind of law of the universe?

the last malay malaysian movie i can remember watching was KL Menjerit 2 (which i saw several times because i was working at GSC at the time), Puteri Gunung Ledang, Sepek and Mukhsin... none of which were as awful as PCK film IMO. the trailers of the other films are usually enough to repel me.

anyhow, i did disclaim in my post that i wasn't reviewing PCK the movie. it was just a rant, really :)

synical said...

My only niggle watching this was that Henry Thia played Rosie's dad in the TV show. So it was a little weird watching him coming unto her like that :{ Creepy...

Observer said...

Lame crap..

Ken Wooi said...

have yet to watch it.. dont think i'll catch it anyways =P

TMBF said...

@k0k s3n w4i: Yeah, my bad, I've been slacking lately.

I know about advertisers. Give them a chance and they will turn your movie into a 90-minute infomercial. If they had any integrity, Boo and Ong and co. should never have given them that chance.

Nah, I don't think they were intentionally making our PDRM look bad. I think it was all of a piece with the general stupidity of the movie.

And I didn't really miss the Chu Beng and Margaret characters. Pierre Png and Tan Kheng Hua are every bit as annoying in the current series as the rest of the cast.

@synical: O rly? So PCK really couldn't give a fig about subjecting their audience - nay, their most loyal fans - to creepy pseudo-incest then.

son of the land said...

I was a fan of the original series. The earlier seasons were good but then it went downhill. The new series set in KL was... boring. Harith was good though =P.

I don't think I'll spend any cash to watch the movie (except if someone else is paying ^_^) after reading your review.

TheBentPencil said...

I agree with Son of The Land. The TV Show has jumped the shark ever since it started the KL version.
that, my friend, is enough to repel me from buying PCK the movie tics.