Monday, November 14, 2011

NASI LEMAK 2.0 - Trashy Comedy With a Few Gems

NASI LEMAK 2.0 (Malaysian comedy)
Cast: Namewee, Karen Kong, Adibah Noor, Afdlin Shauki, Kenny & Chee, Reshmonu, Dennis Lau, Nur Fathia, Nadine Ann Thomas and Pete Teo
Director: Namewee (Wee Chee Meng)
Screenplay by Namewee and Fred Chong
Time: 90 mins
Rating: * * (out of 4)

PREAMBLE: For Malaysians of all races, Nasi Lemak 2.0 has a built-in lure. Its film-maker and rapper, Wee Chee Meng (better known as Namewee) has attained such notoriety on YouTube and in the news (for various offences which I don't care to mention here) that his name has become synonymous with rebelliousness and subversiveness.

If anything, the public would want to know what he's up to this time around with this movie called Nasi Lemak 2.0. Is he going to make an ass of himself again? Or make asses out of his cast?

But wait, the so-called '1-Malaysia comedy', reportedly made on a shoe-string RM1-million budget, has grossed RM7 million at the local box-office! That should raise a lot of eyebrows, especially of people like me who consider this production a low-brow comedy. Of course, the clamour by a group for the movie to be banned must have given a new boost to its takings.

Namewee and Karen Kong

WHAT'S IT ABOUT: Namewee plays Chef Huang, a young cook who sets out with his new-found friend Xiao K (Karen Kong) to find the ingredients and make the best nasi lemak in the country. In his quest, he meets up with various local celebs like Datuk David Arumugam, Afdlin Shauki, Reshmonu and Kenny and Chee, and learn what being in a multi-racial country like Malaysia is all about - besides how to make
good sambal and curry, of course.

Adibah Nor (centre) as a nasi lemak seller

HITS & MISSES: The movie, mostly in Mandarin and local Chinese dialects, looks like it has been rewritten from Stephen Chow Sing-chi's 'mo-lei-tau' (or nonsense) comedies, especially the 1996 God Of Cookery. Having Karen Kong made up in such clownish-looking eyebrows and spectacles reminds us of the Smoking Landlady (Yuen Qiu) in Chow's Kungfu Hustle, except that Karen Kong's Xiao K just looks silly and not funny. Ditto that for most of the so-called comic sequences in the movie.

The narrative is illogical and messy but in the absurdist sequences can be found a few comic gems. The main plot about the quest for the best nasi lemak recipes is really the 'side dish'. The real garnishings are those little gestures, the song and dance numbers, and visuals that take a swipe at Malaysian culture, society and politics. Examples of these are a kris-wielding scene reminiscent of the exploits of an Umno personality; the famous "looks like me, sounds like me, but is not me" quote refuting a video-clip; and allusions to other Malaysian politicians.

Namewee and David Arumugam

I would like to think that Namewee had fun as the 'hero' in this movie, but his efforts are too self-indulgent and crude to be hilarious. Again, he opts to use obscenities, naming his characters Lan Qiao (colloquial for 'penis') and Gong See Fatt, and idiotic situations that make us cringe rather than laugh. However, his use of local celebs, like Adibah Noor, Afdlin Shauki, David Arumugam, Patrick Teoh and Kenny & Chee help to spark and sustain audience interest in the plot. As director, he seems to have allowed his 'guest stars' to run loose and do whatever they want with their cameos.

THE LOWDOWN: A derivative and trashy comedy but there are some comic gems to be found.


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