HAPPY DORM (极乐宿舍) (2016)

Genre: Comedy
Director: Hero Lin
Cast: Shih Chih Tian, Fion Hong, Toby Lee, Awayne Liu, Eason Huang, Claire Lee, Bright Pu
Runtime: 1 hr 56 mins
Rating: NC16 (Sexual References And Coarse Language)
Released By: Shaw  
Official Website: 

Opening Day: 17 November 2016

Synopsis: An accusation of the boys’ dorm being too messy has caused them to potentially get punished. However, Wang (Shih Chih Tian) thought that the excuse was unjustifiable and believed that the girls’ dorm could possibly be even messier and should not get away with the punishment. Wang decided to gather all the boys in the dorm to create havoc in the girls’ dorm so as to get them punished as well. While the two genders were battling, they found out that the principal has plans of demolishing the dorms…

Movie Review:

Forgive us for being superficial, but we didn’t think much of this movie when we first saw its publicity materials. A cash cow hoping to ride on the success of movies like You Are The Apple of My Eye (2011) and Our Times (2015)? Check. An ensemble cast of young and good looking actors? Check. A story about growing up and the wonderful memories that come along with it? Check.

Then there was the synopsis. How can you take this seriously? A group of boys are accused having messy dorms and decide to created havoc in the girls’ dorms dorm because they believe that theirs are probably messier. With the two camps battling each other, they find out that there are plans to demolish the dorms. Of course, the teeny boppy movie poster doesn’t help. Nope, candy pastel colours do not work for this reviewer’s demographics.

We are glad we were wrong – this is actually a coming of age comedy above average standards.  

Taiwanese filmmaker Hero Lin directs a group of relatively unknowns (they probably have their following in Taiwan) to tell a story of how a group of teenagers met in university, fought over messy dorms, grew up to lead separate lives, and eventually coming together again to bond over lost love. In our humble opinion, that would be a more representative synopsis.

The protagonist is the earnest Wang Ji Le played by 26 year old Shih Chih Tian. He is an architecture student who leads a pack of rowdy boys to stand up for their rights to retain their dorms. There are some truly funny moments in the first half of the movie. Why would you not laugh at the boys’ attempts to use a mobile app to gauge a girl’s assets? And you have to admit: a competition of ego and, ahem, manhood taking place in the male bathroom is always hilarious.

Shih is accompanied by his co stars Fion Hong, Toby Lee, Awayne Liu, Eason Huang, Claire Lee – fresh faced actors who are comfortable in their respective roles. You have the geek who can hack computers, the beefcake who is obsessed about keeping cockroaches as pets, the handsome roommate who has a following of female fans, the leader of the girls’ dorm who is vocal in her thoughts, the shy but kind girl who is secretly in love with the protagonist and the feisty loudspeaker who holds no bars. Familiar faces Bright Pu and Lang Tsu Yun play the dorm supervisor and the principal of the school, and effortlessly show why they are thespians in showbiz.

Just as you thought the film has come to an end after resolving the students’ dorm issue, things take a somewhat unexpected twist and we see how the protagonist’s life turns out as he enters adulthood. The tone of the film becomes melancholic, and steers into melodrama at times. Accompanied by a soundtrack littered with pop tunes, this is what you’d expect from a Taiwanese coming of age movie.

Not that this is a bad thing, because we truly enjoyed the 116 minute movie as we reminisced the good old days when your whole world existed alongside your friends in the dorm.    

Movie Rating:

(A surprisingly enjoyable movie that reminds you of the good old days of growing up)

Review by John Li


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