I have never paid to watch a Jack Neo movie ever since his ridiculous behaviour after the extra-marital scandal a few years ago. But I recall some of his past efforts were quite good (one of which was even highlighted at the National Day Rally by the then-PM & which my boss encouraged all her staff to watch with her) and that he was awarded a Cultural Medallion many years ago for his work.
This 2016 movie is nostalgic and would appeal to the older generation, especially those who understand the Hokkien dialect. The right actors are chosen to play the main characters – veteran Mediacorp actress Aillen Tan as Zhao Di, Mark Lee as her older brother Ah Kun and Suhaimi Yusof as their neighbour Osman, who impresses with his perfect comedic timing and very professional acting (including being serious and teary/weepy at times).
After the 1969 nationwide floods (the story in the first installment which I have yet to watch), Zhao Di – and not the eldest son Ah Kun who can’t be bothered with doing any work and often bullies his sister – takes over the family farm. As Singapore’s economy prosper, the Singaporean mindset is also forced to change with the times.
Osman catches his teenage son Ahmad (played by Mohd Habul Qhabyabil b Mohd Zahari) practising with a rock band which he believes will have a negative influence on Ahmad. They argue over their different opinions (in Malay) and Ahmad runs away. By the time Ahmad returns after being jailed, a lot of things have changed and so has the older Ahmad (played by Huhammad Ariff b Raduwan).
Meanwhile, Zhao Di and Ah Kun’s youngest brother Ah Hee (played by Benjamin Tan) gets his girlfriend pregnant and they decide to get married. As the girlfriend Rani (played by Bharathi Rani) is from a different race, both sets of parents disapprove at first. Besides a lot of laughs, The Pledge is worked into the script without any propaganda.
The songs are nostalgic too – You Ya’s Memories Can Only Be Savoured, a Chinese oldie I Pray, some Chinese New Year songs like Da Di Hui Chun and He Xing Nian, an Indian song set to Chinese lyrics called The You I Love and a Filipino song set to English lyrics called Child. The theme song, sung by an ensemble including the cast and Desmond Ng, winner of TV’s Getai challenge and up-and-coming star at Mediacorp, and co-written by Jack Neo and Van Ho, is surprisingly good.
This movie tells quite a lot about the history of Singaporeans in that era. The cinematography is rather beautiful too. Now I’m curious about the first installment of Long Long Time Ago.