Thursday, 27 January 2011

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Homecoming [Review]


Opinion: B

Simple bliss and harmony is essentially what every local Chinese loves to experience over the Lunar New Year, Director Lee Thean-Jeen offers exactly that with a comfortable dosage of light-hearted comedy and engaging colloquial conversations. A great film to heighten the festivity and promote the traditional cultural values in mind of the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year.


"Homecoming" is about three stories of three different individuals going home for Chinese New Year. A major highlight of the movie is that Jack Neo, who will be cross-dressing on the big screen again after eleven years since "Liang Po Po The Movie" back in 1999. He will be playing mother to Ah Niu's character. It is said that he was told to lose at least 5kg for his role. Jack Neo long time collaborator Mark Lee and Malaysian multi-talented writer-director-comedian Afdlin Shauki are among the cast.

Possibly Director Lee Thean-Jeen's first mandarin project that I've seen, I was initially intrigued by the thought of how he deviates away from english television series and film. Nevertheless, there's almost no tell-tale sign of any related weakness as he more than overwhelms with his idea of adhering to traditions during the Chinese Lunar New Year.

Few elements have found their way to instill subtle guilt in the younger generation as some of us undermine traditions that are typically associated with naggy elders. There's trends of families heading overseas for vacations to avoid the New Year, either to escape visitation of friends and relatives or to prevent a disastrous financial angpao (red packet) burn.

Such is also intrinsically tackled onscreen during a kitchen conversation that questions the true value in the emphasis of a reunion dinner during New Year's Eve as it is suggested that dinners can be enjoyed on every single day of a year. This is tactfully drawn parallel to Christmas where gift exchanges can be performed on any day of a year, not necessarily during Christmas.

It is the festive heritage behind these occasions that makes it even more meaningful.

These are messages well sent across to the audience via some good cast performance, with the likes of Mark Lee as Cantonese Chef Daniel and Jack Neo as Malaysian Chinese Karen Neo amidst others. It's also a nice sensation to see Jacelyn Tay appearing on the big screen after quite a while.


Rebecca Lim comes into this production with accolades of her recent win at the Asian Television Awards as Best Actress. Also casted in Director Lee's "The Pupil", Rebecca proves herself by doing well despite given a relatively minor part in the film as the majority of the screen time is allocated to Jack Neo, A Niu, and Mark Lee.

Malaysian multi-talented artiste A Niu appears to be extremely carefree in his role as Karen Neo's son and contributes as one of the major sources of hilarity. His scenes with Jack Neo are very likable and warm, making them very appealing to the audience (which is what Neo needs). Likewise Afdlin Shauki makes a jovial heartlander taxi-driver who doesn't fail to entertain and assist when the need calls for.

I've also found a rising gem in the form of Malaysian actress Koe Yeet who previously starred in "Ah Long Pte Ltd". Turning 19 this year, she seems to be capable of emotionally demanding scenes despite her tender age.

Less a few plot flaws, the character interactions are plausible and engaging, especially those of the side characters. Credits to veterans Liu Ling Ling and Lin Ru Ping, a lot of one dimensional potholes are filled up as their roles might have been dull and linear if not for the enhancement by the cast performance.

A clear example of how cast synergy helps a film to achieve so much more.

Speaking of which, the film does fulfill traditions and displays evidently the merit in achieving so with a festive finale that will bound to see audience members leaving the theatres with delightful grins. An aspect that is very much desired by the Chinese during the Lunar New Year. This film is all about fostering a blissful atmosphere and kinship, as we cross over the new year with a bright smile.

Homecoming is the festive tradition that you should not skip during the Lunar New Year.

***

Check out the Gala Premiere & Post-Party held at GV VivoCity and Gallery Bar respectively in Singapore:


"Homecoming" sneaks this weekend and opens in Singapore cinemas 03 February 2011.

(With special thanks: Gala Premiere & Post-Party courtesy of Omy.sg)


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