It has been a while since I last watched a Jack Neo Chinese New Year movie and Wonderful! Liang Xi Mei《旺得福梁细妹》comes as an excellent refresher. Watching this movie is like a walk down memory lane and then a quick fast forward to the present and future for me.
Born in the 80s, I am of the generation that grew up watching Jack Neo and his gang’s Comedy Night (搞笑行动) every Monday on then TCS’ Channel 8. Those were the days before the internet and cable television opened us up to the wide array of international programmes from America, Korea, China and all over the world. Back then, television entertainment were limited to the programmes available on the 3 local channels operated by TCS. Comedy Night was one of the most popular shows and everyone in Singapore watches it. Iconic comedy characters from the show like Liang Po Po, Miss Alamak, Liang Xi Mei and Lion King were all household names.
Fast forward to the present, the original talents from Comedy Night like Jack Neo, Mark Lee and Henry Thia are now all big names in the entertainment scene, both in Singapore and regionally. Jack Neo is a highly accomplished movie producer, director and actor, with lots of box-office hits under his belt. I am surprised he made the decision to cross-dress as Liang Xi Mei again, given his high status as a “Big Brother” in the local entertainment scene.
Then again, the original Comedy Night trio of Neo, Lee and Thia, recently reunited for a Chinese dialect variety show on Starhub cable television, Hua Hee Tio Ho (欢喜就好), reprising their roles as Liang Xi Mei, Robert and Lion King from the old Liang Xi Mei comedy series, but speaking with a mix of Chinese dialect and with the addition of popular Getai host, singer and actor, Wang Lei. The show prove to be very popular with the older generations and heartlanders in Singapore and played an important role in educating the less tech-savvy folks about the series of phone and internet scams targeting this group.
In this pretext, the Wonderful! Liang Xi Mei movie was born, thanks to the recent television revival of the old comedy series.
It would be hard to do the movie any justice if we were to go with the conventional star rating. Director Jack Neo knows that too and made a joke in the movie predicting how it is likely that movie critics will be giving him a one-star review as how they always do for most of his movies, despite the box office success.
The movie is entertaining. I won’t deny that and it has all the necessary ingredients of a happy ending, good morals and auspicious themes to make it a good Chinese New Year movie to watch. Check out the trailer:
What always amaze me about Jack Neo movies is that he is able to draw out the heartland crowd, including elderly auntie and uncles who don’t usually flock to cinemas to support him.
Equally impressive is his ability to get lots of sponsors of all variety and integrate their product or service appearances into the movie. For this movie, I spotted Ribena, A1 Abalone Noodle and an automated door lock brand which were all featured prominently, with dedicated, intrusive segments. Audiences don’t seem to mind and have taken it in stride as something expected as of all Jack Neo movies.
The movie runs on a thin storyline exploring the constant tension between Liang Xi Mei and his elder son, Robert, who is deemed as a good-for-nothing in her eyes. Random gags and comedy segments pepper the storyline, much like watching an extended movie version of Comedy Night.
The pair eventually make peace at the end of the movie for a happy ending and we learned of Robert and Liang Xi Mei’s backstory during Robert’s growing up years. For fans of the Liang Xi Mei comedy series, the backstories, as well as seeing the characters in a real physical HDB home instead of the usual stage backdrops are some surprises to look out for in the movie.
If you are looking for an entertaining movie to watch with the whole family to just laugh, forget and have a great time, this is the movie to catch for Chinese New Year. If you have fussy, artsy critic taste like Straits Times John Lui, please avoid this movie like the plague.
Wonderful! Liang Xi Mei《旺得福梁细妹》is now showing in Singapore cinemas.