Thursday, 27 January 2011

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It's a Great Great World [Review]

(Click here to watch the full dialect trailer)

Opinion: B+

Highly resembling a well-made telemovie with an enormous television cast involved, Kelvin Tong's latest film brings us back in time to indulge in the glamour and beauty of Great World amusement park that used to be bustling with life once upon a time in Singapore. Through 4 old photographs, each with a lovely tale to tell, we learn that the shutting down of Great World hasn't erased the memories people built in it.


Produced by MediaCorp Raintree Pictures, It’s A Great Great World is set in Singapore’s legendary amusement park Great World, which was also affectionately known in Hokkien as Tua Seh Kai. Spanning the 1940s to the present day, the film tells the stories of a multitude of characters who lived, worked, played, sang, danced and fell in love in Great World.

Featuring an ensemble of MediaCorp artistes, the family comedy will star Joanne Peh, Yvonne Lim, Chew Chor Meng, Xiang Yun, Huang Wenyong, Zhang Zhen Huan, Zhang Yao Dong, Ng Hui, Paige Chua, Ben Yeo, Kym Ng, Bryan Wong, Chen Shucheng, Gurmit Singh, Zheng Geping, Apple Hong, Guo Liang and Dennis Chew. Familiar comedy names, such as Henry Thia and Marcus Chin, as well as artistes from Hong Kong and Taiwan will also be appearing in It’s A Great Great World.

From the aesthetics, treatment, and the generous involvement of MediaCorp artistes, it feels very much like an excellent telemovie with interesting colloquial dialect conversations and robust production values. Perhaps the reason why it's slated for a big screen release is to allow dialect flavours to be enjoyed by the audience, something that cannot be achieved on national television.

Taking great pain and effort to instill a high resemblance in the look and feel of the actual Great World amusement park, the set location and props are elaborate and indeed convinced me into thinking that I've really entered Great World some decades back. Building a large studio set of that scale must have been mind-blowing, not forgetting the likely extensive pre-production research performed.


What appealed most to me is the saturated dialect dialogues that can be heard almost from start to end. Featuring Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Hainanese and other dialects, the language medium coated the film with a desired layer of plausible native life back during those days. Should mandarin be used as the common tongue in this film, it would have heavily ruined the audience's satisfaction. As a member of the younger generation, everything from the dialects to the activities found in Great World have captured my heart with intrigue and curiosity for the film's subject topic.

In that sense, this film has achieved in success.

Scripted by Kelvin Tong, Marcus Chin, and Ken Kwek, the four stories and the respective dialogues were very well written. I especially loved those hawker jingles that the kebab seller (Chew Chor Meng) and the chinese medicine oil vendor (A Nan) shouted in the film. They are several times more creative and interesting than those we hear of the durian street hawkers these days.

On a quick notion, Olivia Ong was a fresh presence on screen as a modern day fashion photographer.

Dousing everything with nostalgia and heritage stories, one will feel as if time has travelled back for 90 minutes. Through these stories, you get a good balance of comedy, romance, and (subtle) heart-wrenching emotions that suggestively resembles life itself. With selective lead actors for each of the stories, most of the other cast are mainly supporting characters who nevertheless matter greatly to the film. We are talking about over 25 artistes, it's really larger than life. Life was such back then in Great World.

Life was good, and so is this film because,

It's a Great Great World.


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