Tuesday, August 26, 2008

MONEY NOT ENOUGH 2: It's Funny Enough-lah

MONEY NO ENOUGH 2 (comedy in Mandarin & Hokkien)
Cast: Henry Thia, Jack Neo, Mark Lee, Vivian Lai and Lai Ming

Director: Jack Neo

Time: 125 mins

Rating: * * *
(out of 4)

In 1998, when we were all reeling under the weight of the Asian Financial Crisis, Singaporean film-maker Jack Neo wrote a satire about three friends with money problems (what else?) like those faced by most Singaporeans at that time. That comedy, 'Money No Enough', which was directed by Tay Teck Lock, earned over S$5.8 million (about RM14mil) and remains Singapore's all-time highest-grossing film. It also gave the Singaporean film industry a revival, spawning two copycat flicks.

Now, with such a solid backing for the comedy, what took them so long (10 years!) in coming up with this sequel?

To be sure, this movie is not a sequel per se, as it is no longer about the three friends but about the exploits of three brothers of a 'typical' Singaporean family with an aged mother (played by Malaysia's Lai Ming). The eldest, Yang Bao Hui (Henry Thia, representing the lower income group) delivers goods for a living and longs to be rich one day. Second brother Bao Qiang (Jack Neo) is in the real estate business making top bucks, while the youngest, Bao Huang (Mark Lee, representing the middle class) makes good money selling health supplement.

When a crisis hits, the brothers find themselves at odds against one another, especially when it concerns taking care of their ailing mother...

There is no doubt that this comedy works because of the tried and tested screen chemistry of the Neo-Lee-Thia combination. Also, the three stars are in verey familiar roles and they are very much at home in them. The supporting cast are credible too, with Lim Ru Ping (as Thia’s doting wife), singer Zhu Ling Ling (as Neo’s socialite wife) and Vivian Lai (as Lee’s suffering wife). However, the standout performance comes from Lai Ming, who is at the centre of the 'third act' involving the issue of filial piety and taking care of the aged. Those with elderly parents will relate to this tear-jerker of a theme.

Basically, this is a Singapore movie, with Neo lampooning many of the Government's policies, like its Electronic Road Pricing system. One big problem is that a lot of the jokes are in Hokkien dialect, and those who do not understand the dialect would feel alienated. Also, it looks like director Neo is out to break its predecessor's box-office record - and he packs this sequel with product placements (from soft drinks to telcos and even a bank).

'Money No Enough 2' looks good enough to surpass its predecessor's feat.


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