Having Homerun shown on television tonight was an opportunity to compare the masterpiece of the original Children of Heaven, and the local remake done by Jack Neo. To his credit, taking on such a film and remaking for the local audience is a feat of courage, and given that the young rookie Megan Zheng had actually won a Golden Horse award for her performance, I thought it would something at least. Sad to say, the movie is really quite devoid of a soul and lacks the innocent charm of the original. If you really want to watch this, then make sure you haven't seen Children of Heaven, or you'll be disappointed.
First of all, it's an adaptation, so key scenes are replicated in Homerun. While not shot-for-shot, it still has elements that are instantly recognizable, and in attempts to deviate slightly from the original, some scenes were played out in verbatim, or found a needless desire to be explained in every minute detail. Jack Neo did try to infuse some environmental changes with Homerun, and had the setting and premise in 1965 Singapore, where we still had villages, and the production values allowed a Singapore of yesteryear to be recreated. However, in trying to carve out something still unique for Homerun, he put in what he knows best - I Not Stupid. While acting talent is scarce here, putting familiar faces into the movie, and again with the school setting, draws too much similarities and can't shake off the ghost of the I Not Stupid series.
What created a slight ruckus at the time, was the incorporating of the spat between Singapore and our neighbour, in not-too-subtle scenes that on one hand tried to draw some laughter, and on the other trying to add some much needed depth to a bland copy of Majid Majidi's classic. In doing so, what was essentially achieved was to divert attention from the main story, and introduced some scenes of football, petty school spats (you just got to love hating those small sized boys with big mouths) and the issue on water, all of which only achieved one undesired objective, and that's to extend the runtime. Homerun was anything but a homerun in the making, and could have actually cut down such unwanted scenes to tighten the pace.
While Megan Zheng might have won the Golden Horse award, she's no Bahare Seddiqi. The former's expression relied on plenty of tears, and a perpetual scowl she puts on her face. While Seddiqi endears, Zheng can't do any of that. Her screen sibling Ah Kun, played by Shawn Lee, is no better than Amir Farrokh Hashemian too. Ah Kun turned out to be lacking the street smarts, and was quite dependent on his friends to pull him out of his predicaments. So if you're looking at Homerun on the basis of the leads alone, they can't hold a candle to the original casted siblings.
Honestly, Homerun is a decent production, but when compared to the original, it pales by plenty of miles. Understandably Jack is no Majid, but one thing that really irked me, is how Jack consistently shovels sympathy down your throat by replaying scene after scene of reminders of how pitiful the children are, now that they have to share a shoe, and reminders of how the shoe's disintegrating, and included a scene involving broken glass bottles, which is ridiculous and only there to milk some more sympathy points (which backfired of course). Come on, we're not stupid, and too much of something done in such an obvious manner, will only cause the rolling of eyes.
Children of Heaven, this is definitely not. Stick to the original, and nothing less.