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881 (Singapore)

  Publicity Stills of "881"
(Courtesy from GV)

In Mandarin & Hokkien with English and Chinese subtitles
Director: Royston Tan
Cast: Mindee Ong, Yeo Yann Yann, Qi Yu Wu, Liu Ling Ling, May and Choy
RunTime: 1 hr 50 mins
Released By: GV/Zhaowei Films/Mediacorp Raintree Pictures/Scorpio East Pictures
Rating: PG
Official Website: www.zhaowei.com/881

Opening Day: 9 August 2007


881 tells the story of two childhood friends who grow up mesmerized by the glitz and glamour of ‘Getai’ and dream of one day performing on the ‘Getai’ stage. After being blessed by the Goddess of ‘Getai’, they fulfill their dreams and become the most sought-after pair of ‘Getai’ singers ever.

Unbeknownst to them, rival sister group the Durian Sisters have become intensely jealous of the Papayas' success, and are determined to trip them up by messing up their schedule. With the help of their gangster Godfather, the Durians succeed in shutting the Papayas out of many ‘Getai’ performances. The movie climaxes with a dramatic musical battle. Both sides pull out all the stops to win over the audience.

Movie Review:

There’s no better argument for the severity of form witnessed in Royston Tan’s “4:30” than his Getai (song stage) themed, “881”. The film’s dangerously epileptic flashiness is pockmarked with plenty of familiar Stephen Chow paraphernalia – pandemonium, mania, indulgency, lunacy etc – as if to suggest a broadening of his repertoire to include more commercially viable (potentially vapid) notches to his belt. And to his credit, Tan channels more than just the Hong Kong comic maestro’s playfully absurdist takes on conventional wisdoms but also audaciously attempts to mimic filmmaking compatriot Jack Neo’s distinctive use of local patois to reinforce his assaults on the heartland’s fragile sensibilities, and in the process finds himself traversing the same pitfalls Neo’s seemingly encumbered by even after a decade.

“881” drops a bomb of overwhelming pageantry on the serious business of Getai, a series of concerts performed for spirits during the seventh lunar month in various estates around Singapore. While being ethnically isolating or perhaps just intensely focused on a singular Singaporean theme, the film aggrandises the antics assumed with the sub-culture and amplifies it into camp hyperventilation. Much of the fun comes from the acceptance of musical staples (songs apparently culled from real Getai sources) with no requirement to pin down a number against the hoary extravagance of a Getai stage or inside a character's head.

Tan’s stylistic flourishes through explosions of colour and visual panache, aims for ebullience when its main duo, the Papaya sisters (Yeo Yann Yann and Mindee Ong) relish in their newly refined ability to sing, granted by a flamboyantly decked out Goddess of Getai played by a fearlessly exuberant Liu Ling Ling in a separate role, in addition to the sisters’ goofy guardian and mother to a stoic stud (Qi Yu Wu) who refuses to choke his chicken from time to time.

Regardless, the film certainly takes its time in circling the drain at its terminus, taking a few pit stops into accidental hilarity along the way through the sheer overwrought verbosity of familial melodramatics that border on parody and eventually desiccates the brimming life force from the rest of the proceedings that endeavours to move along at the speed of light. Granted, eventually Tan soldiers through the silliness of taking a crack at female bonding to get to its inevitable, grandiose showdown between the Durian skanks and petite yet potent Papaya sisters, but by then all anyone can be thankful for is that Royston Tan understands that a good cock joke never grows old.

Movie Rating:

(Solid entertainment for the most part, Royston Tan’s attempt at Stephen Chow delivers more hits than misses)

Review by Justin Deimen

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