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HOMECOMING (Singapore)

Director: Lee Thean-Jeen
Cast: Mark Lee, Jack Neo, A Niu, Afdlin Shauki, Jacelyn Tay, Huang Wenhong, Rebecca Lim, Koe Yeet, Liu Ling Ling
RunTime: 1 hr 37 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: PG
Official Website:

Opening Day: 3 February 2011

Synopsis: HOMECOMING is a series of intertwining stories about an ensemble of people on both sides of the Causeway as they head home to celebrate their Chinese New Year Reunion Dinner with their families.

A road-trip movie, comedy and heartwarming family drama all rolled into one, the movie takes place over the course of one day –Chinese New Year’s Eve.

Karen Neo (Jack Neo) and her son Ah Meng (Ah Niu) are traveling by bus to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to have Reunion Dinner with Karen’s family there. The bus has barely started on its journey when the duo get into one scrape after another: first, Ah Meng takes the wrong medication –sleeping pills instead of motion sickness pills; then Karen gets into a fight with a teenage girl, Mindy (Koe Yeet), who holds a ticket for the same seat as Karen. 

When the bus makes a pit stop, Karen fights with a well-meaning taxi driver, Zool (Afdlin Shauki) over a bottle of medicated oil. When the bus is unable to continue its journey and Zool turns out to be the only person who can get Karen and Ah Meng to KL, the group form an uneasy alliance as theyfinish their journey to KL in Zool’s taxi, complete with a lucky lottery ticket, a visit to the airport and the birth of a baby!

Mindy, meanwhile, is trying to make her way to KL to see her mother after having an argument with her celebrity chef father, Daniel Koh(Mark Lee), who is too busy preparing a Reunion Dinner Celebration in his restaurant for a very important Minister. Although Danielis a brilliant chef, he is also very temperamental: on that day, after he loses his temper at two of his kitchen assistants and fires them, the rest of his assistants walk out on him, leaving behind only his trusted Restaurant Manager, Fei Fei. Now, Danieland Fei Fei have to conjure up a meal for a hundred guests in a matter of hours …

As a last resort, Fei Fei asks her family and relatives to become ‘cooks’ on the busiest and most important day of the year in the Chinese restaurant business. Like an underdog football team, these ‘cooks’ turn the adage of ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’ on its head and save the daywith the most comedic and hilarious scenes, a mix of Kung Fu Hustle meets The Eight Immortals!

Finally, in a house in KL that is teeming with relatives, a newlywed bride, Jamie (Rebecca Lim), is spending her first Chinese New Year among her husband, Boon(Huang Wen Hong)’s family. A modern Singaporean girl to whom Chinese New Year means a vacation away from family, Jamie clashes with Boon’s traditional Chinese family, with warm but unpredictable consequences.

Told with humour, irony and warmth, in a mixture of English, Mandarin, and Malay, HOMECOMING is atruly Singaporean-Malaysian collaboration for the entire family.

Movie Review:

The Chinese Lunar New Year dawns upon us again. It’s a time of great festivity and celebration, and everything is supposed to be loud, colourful and happy – at least that’s what this grouch of a reviewer heard. As you can see, the films opening in the same week as this Lee Thean Jean directed movie (to coincide with the Chinese Lunar New Year, of course) have been given rather positive reviews by his fellow columnists. They are probably kinder folks than this him, but this peevish reviewer is not going to be kind on this star studded vehicle.    

Nope, he is also not very interested in what cross dressing can do for director actor Jack Neo since his shocking sex scandal last March.

Neo plays a flamboyant woman who has to travel back to Malaysia with his son (Malaysian singer actor director Ah Niu) for a reunion dinner. The coach bus they are traveling on breaks down halfway and comedy ensues. Somewhere in the mix is also a runaway teenage girl Malaysian actress Koe Yeet) who misses home halfway through her escapade, a haughty celebrity chef (local actor director Mark Lee) and his restaurant manager (local TV star Jacelyn Tay) who find themselves in a fix when the staff walk out, and a newlywed couple (local deejay Huang Wenhong and TV actress Rebecca Lim) who are planning to sneak off for a Bali holiday on the night of reunion dinner.

That’s quite a bit to pack into a 90 minute movie, we hear you say? Truth be told, we are glad the movie wasn’t any lengthier, or we’d be missing out on some other more exciting events happening outside the cinema.

These intertwined stories happen on Chinese New Year eve on both sides of the Causeway, and that is the perfect opportunity for artistes from both Singapore and Malaysia to be featured in this collaboration. This also means that there box offices from two countries can be tapped on – it’s a money making business after all, this thing called movie production.

You may be a fan of Lim, Best Actress at last year’s Asia TV Awards. You may tune in regularly to Huang, who hosts programmes on the Singapore air waves. You may love Tay’s last TV drama and miss her beautiful getup as He Xian Gu. But this comedy is so dreary and predictable that you may wonder why your idol agreed to be part of this humdrum affair. We understand that it’s the Chinese New Year season, and the general public is going contain suckers for messages about family tradition and intergeneration togetherness, but is this really the best way to do it? It may work for half hour TV sitcom episodes, but when the approach is executed for the big screen, things come across as convenient and sluggish. At its best, yhe ensemble acting is passable for TV standards.     

To be fair, there are some bright sparks here. Lee puts on a Hong Kong accent to play an unlikable character. As he wears his chef hat and goes about hurling mean words at people around him, we managed to chuckle a little. Malaysian comedian Afdlin Shauki also does a good job as a taxi driver who has to drive Neo and Ah Niu’s mother son duo to their destination. The spot on comedy moments may be exaggerated, but the roly poly has a natural gift of making people sit up and snicker. Fellow Malaysians Koe and Ah Niu are pleasant to watch = as they share their screen time with the (in)famous Neo as a tai tai wannabe.

Named Karen Neo, the loud and brash character is a gimmick which this reviewer doesn’t buy, even if he is repeatedly told that tolerance should be practised during the festive season.

Movie Rating:

(A sitcom which stretches itself into a feature film)

Review by John Li


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