Liang Po Po the Movie
Reviewed by Dave Chua
Director: Teng Bee Lian
Writing Credits: Jack Neo
Cast: Jack Neo, Mark Lee, Henry Thia, Patricia Mok, Eric Tsang
Languages: Cantonese, Hokkien, Mandarin, English
Year Released: 1999
Rating: *½ (out of four stars)
Has every Singapore movie opened with a scene of a bus pulling up? There's not much imagination to Liang Po Po The Movie. It fires its humour everywhere, hitting the target once or twice but you'll have to sit through those excruciating misses to get to them, by which time you might have dropped off or given up.
There's a bunch of cameo appearances in the front that don't get the movie anywhere, but everything starts to get into gear in the later half. The second half is thankfully better, as the movie gains a direction rather than wander aimlessly, but the conclusion is a bit sloppy and there's a pretty grating lecture on video piracy to top it all off.
Liang Po Po runs off from the old folks home and tries to survive out in the Housing Board heartland. She runs foul of a gang of Ah Bengs and Ah Lians, then gets adopted by a triad after showing some skills at selling VCDs and debt collecting. However, the triad leader wants the gang to attain world-class standards and hires some gangsters from Hongkong (with Eric Tsang who gives a workman-like performance) to act as consultants. Before long, the whole gang is decked out in sunglasses, ties and coats and sweating it out. The focus shifts away from Liang Po Po for quite a while before a bank heist piece puts the lid on the story.
The humour in Liang Po Po isn't great. Most of it is of the Monday Comedy Night variety, and one walks out of the movie without being able to recall most of the jokes. Some folks at the preview were guffawing at every line of Hokkien uttered in the film, making one wonder if they'd put something in the popcorn.
The best moments are the satirical bits as the gangsters try to attain world-class status, where the hunchbacked geriatric is thankfully absent. Liang Po Po's monkeyish Ooh-ooh-ooh gets irritating, and her character is as cardboard as the standees you see around town. Fortunately there's a strong backup cast to make the movie more watchable and give the geriatric some support, but the best scenes in the movie are those when she plays a minor role or is totally out of the picture. Leave it to Mark Lee, as the unlikely buddy, who almost steals the show. Will this be a big hit? You can bet your grandmother's jade bangle on it. If you enjoy Comedy Night, you're likely to enjoy this. If you don't, be forewarned: This probably won't be the last time Liang Po Po will visit our screens.