26 July 2008

Money No Enough 2

Ten years after Money No Enough, Jack Neo and his team return to bring us Money No Enough 2, once again casting the spotlight on the common local man’s life while poking fun at our uniquely Singaporean mentality and our government policies. At the same time, the movie hits home on common predicaments of families and addressing our eroding virtues.

Along with computer graphics (abeit tackily done), the movie presented snippets of local life in outrageously hilarious scenarios envisioned by Jack Neo. Then everything is zapped back to reality because Singaporeans are essentially only capable of complaining but yet afraid of challenging the status quo and facing the consequences.

Jack Neo, Henry Thia and Mark Lee are cast as brothers, each with varying income levels, representing the low, middle and high income groups in Singapore and effectively portraying the varied mentalities and attitudes towards money and how each earns his keep. Yet all share a common trait, the belief that money is never enough.

Funny and cringe-worthy at the same time was the numerous and shameless product placements generously peppered throughout the movie. Undoubtedly killing-two-birds-with-one-stone, getting funding from sponsors while taking an intentional stab at local film making where money is indeed not enough.

Also look out for impersonators of a certain amiable health minister and a member of parliament.

Yet Money No Enough 2 focuses as much if not more screen time on family, sending us a strong reminder to check our bearings on the moral compass. As true colors surface in crises, A strong underlying message that money is not everything, that one’s true wealth is having the company of his loved ones. A perfectly contrasting rebuttal to the government’s ceaseless push for economic advancement.

The surprisingly poignant plot brought out what could arguably be the best performances (though methodical) by Henry Thia and Mark Lee to date. Jack’s turn as the rich, vain, calculative, risk-taking second brother, in contrast, felt like a disconnected and gratuitous appearance, intentional or otherwise.

Henry’s role as the gullible and filial pushover of an eldest brother was realistic as he was endearingly comical. As husband and wife, the on-screen chemistry between him and Lin Ru Ping was heartwarming and sincere. Mark’s selfish, irresponsible, hot-tempered and loose-tongued youngest brother’s repentance for his wife’s forgiveness on his past mistakes was moving, even if it is conveniently scripted.

Additionally, Lai Ming’s performance as the Alzheimer’s disease stricken mother to the 3 sons was bittersweet and heart wrenching as her condition deteriorated. Her readiness to shower unconditional love despite her circumstances effortlessly tugged at heartstrings and served as a touching tribute to all mothers.

My only disappointment was perhaps a lack of stronger resolution and calls to action. Optimism was so briefly preached by the most improbable and maybe inappropriate of characters. The message of sufficiency and thanksgiving was almost mistaken as resigning to fate. There are even hints of government’s preachings.

Still, Money No Enough 2 is undoubtedly a must-see for all in this season as we celebrate the nation’s 43rd birthday. It will bring the much needed prescription of laughter and perhaps some tears.

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