Director: Ong Kuo Sin
Cast: Lawrence Wong, Mark Lee, Cya Liu, Mimi Choo, Guo Liang, Xiang Yun, Zhu Hou Ren, Das Dharamahsena
Runtime: 1 hr 31 mins
Rating: PG (Some Sexual References)
Released By: Golden Village Pictures and Clover Films
Opening Day: 20 January 2022
Synopsis: Co-workers Chaoyang and Zi Hong have been dating for more than a year, with marriage on the cards. When a client requests for a livestream of their reunion dinner to promote his products, the couple realises that neither have met the other’s family. Zi Hong is excited to finally get to meet Chaoyang’s mother, unaware of the latter’s estranged relationship with his mother. Embarrassed by his mother Yan Ling’s occupation as a mama-san, Chaoyang decides to engage the help of a friend, Wei, to “rent-a-family”, resulting in a series of mishaps and hilarity. The carefully constructed sham falls to pieces when the lie is eventually exposed over the reunion dinner on livestream. Will Chaoyang be able to repair the broken relationship with his mother and reconcile his differences with Zi Hong?
It is that time of the year again. It is a time when family members kill time in the cinemas after Chinese New Year visiting or hosting. And it is a time when corporations leverage this once in a year opportunity to get their products seen by tens of thousands of people. While we are not sure whether product placement is a mainstay in CNY movies elsewhere, it seems to be an especially popular method of advertising during the festive period.
Kicking off the first round of CNY movies this year is Ong Kuo Sin’s follow up to the surprisingly heartfelt Number 1 (2020). The film opens with a title card bearing the brand of a health supplement distributor, and you know the movie isn’t exactly going to be subtle. Then you see the name of a famous integrated resort flashed on screen, and you know the movie is going to feature iconic skyscapes and luxury hotel rooms.
Back to the story: the protagonist is Chao Yang (Lawrence Wong), an established creative director of an advertising agency who seems to have everything – a comfortable life, a successful career and a pretty girlfriend (Cya Liu). Things get a little complicated when Chao Yang’s client (who sells abalone, of course) comes up with an idea to involve his real family in a live stream of a CNY reunion dinner.
And then you realise things are not as perfect as they seem – Chao Yang isn’t exactly proud of his mother (Xiang Yun), who had gone through a number of questionable relationships with various men. It doesn’t help that he remains truamatised by the childhood memories of what happened with one of his mother’s violent ex boyfriends (the filmmakers cleverly casted real life father and son Zhu Hou Ren and Joel Choo in this role). Hence, Chao Yang goes all out to create a façade of a fake family with another one of his mother’s ex boyfriends (Mark Lee). Adding to the confusion is the arrival of his girlfriend’s Shanghainese father (Guo Liang), whom he needs to please.
The premise allows for countless gags that work well for a CNY movie. There are plenty of laughs as characters scramble to put up a show for Chao Yang’s potential father in law. The concept of ‘saving face’ is very relatable to local audiences, and you know things won’t be as dramatically funny if you are put in Chao Yang’s shoes.
The best scenes below to Lee, who worked with the director previously and was nominated at the Golden Horse Awards for Best Actor. The actor has a natural flair for comedy and delivers his lines with ease. Another gem in the movie is Das Dharamahsena, who plays a freelance actor pretending to be Chao Yang’s cousin. The trilingual comedian effortlessly milks laughs from the viewers, with the help of Hong Kong actress Mimi Choo. Zhu and Guo also deliver impressive performances as a volatile gangster and a no nonsense father figure.
The 91 minute movie is a breeze to sit through, and an entertaining way to spend CNY. And you’d definitely remember the commercial products and ‘uniquely Singapore’ locations incorporated into the story.
(It's the CNY period, so get in the mood with this entertaining and family-friendly comedy)
Review by John Li