Sebuah filem KRU Studios yang teramat okey ~ That Movie Blogger Fella

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Sebuah filem KRU Studios yang teramat okey

My rating:

Fantasy adventure-comedy that parodies a whole bunch of characters from Malay folklore? That's actually a great idea. That's what I thought when I saw the trailer for this. It's a concept that lends itself to a lot of imagination, and if it can live up to that potential, we might have a decent local film here. ('Cos even a decent local film is such a rarity.) But the thing about that trailer that gave me pause is that it's also a musical. Aiyaa, why laa? As I have previously mentioned, musicals are perhaps my least favourite genre. I couldn't help but think this movie simply didn't need to break out into song every ten minutes or so.

Turns out I was right, on both counts.

Ayu (Diana Danielle) and Malik (Fimie Don) are brother and sister who have just buried their deceased mother at her rural kampung. After a childish argument, Malik runs off into the jungle, Ayu goes after him... and they both tumble through a gateway into the land of Magika. Malik is quickly kidnapped by Nenek Kebayan (Ziana Zain), who plans to use him to make her youth potion for an eager clientele that includes the Puteri Gunung Ledang (Ning Baizura). Ayu, on the other hand, runs into Pak Pandir (Aznil Nawawi) and Mak Andeh (Raja Azura), sees Mahsuri (Vanidah Imran) get run through by Awang's (Norman Hakim) spear, is briefly accompanied by Hang Tuah (Saiful Apek), and finally finds a friend in Badang (Mawi), who helps her rescue Malik. And they'll have more wacky hijinks to get into before they find their way home.

I'm beginning to think that KRU Studios may be the most competent local film studio working today. They made My Spy, which wasn't a very good movie but at least had some solid production values. They made Jin Notti, which was an awful awful movie but at least it had some original ideas. And they made the two Cicakman films, which I haven't seen but at least deserve points for ambition (if they're better than Kapoww, they're good enough already). Such low standards is where our industri filem tempatan is currently at, but hey, baby steps. What makes Magika stand out from the typical local film is that it is overall a perfectly competent film.

Of course, you come to TMBF to hear more than just "citer nie kira okeylah", so here goes my usual rebiu yang panjang lebar. The writing is pretty solid; the dialogue largely avoids on-the-nose exposition, and can occasionally be pretty witty. Especially the parts where they fool around with their source material of Malay folk legends. The funniest scene was Sabri Yunus playing a hilariously droll Bendahara chastising the Puteri Gunung Ledang for being a drama queen with the Sultan Melaka. (And hey, kenapa Sabri jarang buat filem? Dude is funny.) Also, I may have heard my first honest-to-God instance of sexual innuendo in a Malay film ("tadi kecik, sekarang dah besar"). It's too bad they don't go as far with the spoofery as, say, the Shrek movies, but the bits we get are welcome.

But as I suspected, the musical parts are what dragged the movie down. Yes yes, I'm no fan of musicals, I am clearly biased, I'm just a mean ol' meanyhead being mean. But the thing is that the movie uses its musical numbers as a substitute for genuine emotional scenes. Ayu and Badang have a romance, Malik has survivor's guilt over his mum's death, and the two bickering siblings must learn to love each other. How are these character arcs conveyed and resolved? They sing about it. Now, maklumlah dalam genre muzikal ni, itulah fungsi adegan nyanyian - to provide emotional resonance as well as advance the plot. But I just ain't feelin' it, guys. It's like, no matter what deep emotional trauma you suffer from, nyanyi lagu je semuanya baik.

Or maybe it's just the way the musical scenes are executed here. The thing about musicals that I can never quite get is the tonality; what kind of world is this where people sukati je bernyanyi dan berdansa? It would've worked better if only the denizens of Magika do the singing and dancing, but noooo, Diana Danielle just had to show off her pipes. Musicals operate in a kind of heightened reality, and not everyone has the acting chops for that. Most of the cast do fine by just hamming it up, although some try too hard to make too much of their screentime. (Raja Azura, ngkolah tu.) But although Diana is pretty good when she's not singing, she never seems comfortable with her musical scenes; during her reconciliation song with Malik, dia macam bermiang dengan adiknya sendiri. (Um, yes. Ewww.) Mawi also never quite gets the tone right. Dashing hero, dia boleh buat. Dashing hero yang bernyanyi dan berdansa, dia kayu.

The thing about Magika is that it's ambitious for a local film, but that's a low standard - it's not really ambitious enough. Making it a musical seems obligatory, like they did it just because Hotel Mania is a hit on TV3 and they're hopping on the bandwagon. (Macamlah Hotel Mania tu original sangat.) But as much as I've been carping about it, citer nie kira okey jugaklah. You'll probably like it more than I did if you like musicals. There's a singing-and-dancing fight scene between Badang and Nenek Kebayan that's gloriously silly, and the climactic action scene involving a CGI dragon is... okay, it's not a very well-staged action scene, but points for effort. I'm feeling good about KRU Studios right now, enough to even forgive them for Jin Notti; if they keep aiming as high as this, I reckon eventually they'll make a genuinely good movie. (Hell, maybe this could be it.)

NEXT REVIEW: Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole
Expectations: dammit that title is just so lame


The Wan And Only said...

TMBF, sorry but Ziana Zain was the nenek kebayan, not Erra Fazira...

TMBF said...

@The Wan And Only: Oops! Fixed. :P

k0k s3n w4i said...

hey, i was just waiting for your stamp of approval for this film. after my last look into a local film, i wasn't too keen to trip my way back into a cinema to see another.

and i like musicals (chicago, dreamgirls and even disney's enchanted) so this should be right up my alley.

ooch, be gentle to them cutesey owls thar, mate. and if you don't already know, try guessing which character is voiced by david "faramir" wenham. it came as a total shock to me when i found out.

Jetsetters Clothing said...

i actually liked this movie. it's better than other local movies. when i wacthed i thought all the effects and graphics would be lame. but it turns out. it's not bad. overall this film is okayla. at least this proves that malaysia can do films like these.

TMBF said...

@k0k s3n w4i: Do review it if you're gonna watch it. :)