Monday, April 28, 2008

Money Still No Enough - 10 Years of Jack Neo Movies

It's been 10 years since Money No Enough, and Jack Neo and his merry men from J-Team have gone to make no less than 11 feature films in the last decade, each one growing from the strength of the other, and most of which have broken the million dollar mark at the local box office. This evening, friends, cast and crew from his filmography turned up in full force to pay tribute to a local filmmaker who's possibly the most hardworking, often writing, directing, producing, starring, and sometimes even having a hand in crafting the funny songs featured in his movie. Talk about "bao-ka-liao"!

You can read my event coverage of "10 Years of Great Jack Neo Movies" at by clicking on the logo below.


And here's a blast from the past review of Money No Enough, a movie which is now being re-released for a limited run at GV cinemas:

Money No Enough is still holding the record for the highest grossing local film to date (over S$5 million), and with its tremendous box office success, this movie sparked a thought that made-in-Singapore commercial films do have a chance at the box office. It also heralded a slew of various copycats trying to jump on the same bandwagon, such as Where Got Problem and Lucky Number.

Written by Jack Neo, and directed by Tay Teck Lock (not Jack Neo, contrary to popular belief), this movie contained plenty of dialect dialogue, which probably was unprecedented for its time, as well as a slew of vulgarities which flew off the characters tongue with ease. Naturally these were unheard of in Jack's popular Comedy Night television variety cum comedy show, given strict television guidelines, and hence, having screen characters SWEAR and in DIALECT, was a bit of a novelty for local audiences so used to hearing the same thing at home, amongst friends or at coffeeshops.

And speaking of coffeeshops, it is almost de-facto that a local movie needed to feature one in order to be a bona-fide local movie. Money No Enough opens with a montage and a theme song, before settling down at a kopitiam (coffeeshop), where three friends, an office worker (Jack Neo), the ah-beng contractor (Mark Lee), and the kopi-kia (coffee boy) Henry Thia, converge and presented the first of many social commentary on the government and the people, of course, laced with comedy.

While many of the characters are stereotypes and caricatures, such as the aunties (mis)behaving in a hospital, loansharks and on insurance agents, most roles are politically incorrect and make no apologies for it, as they are exaggerated for local audiences to laugh at ourselves.

Some of the issues brought up might seem dated, but still hold certain truths in this time and age (it's only less than 10 years old, but already some landscape changes can be noticed). Issues like money or the lack thereof in a materialistic society, the graduate-non-graduate divide, and the keeping up with the Joneses are a reflection of the times in the late 90s during the economic crisis.

In any case, the hallmarks of a Jack Neo (written) movie can be seen to have started from here (although there were already some obscure HK/Taiwan movies that he had starred in). With the fusion of topical events from any coffeeshop talk's flavour of the moment, comedy, catchy songs, and caricatures, perhaps these is the success formula of making a viable commercial movie, given he's one of the few local filmmakers who almost consistently delivers at the box office.

Money No Enough is not without flaws, and it is fairly obvious from the raw delivery in sound. The ending is particularly weak, which is quite wasted given that it has an engaging beginning and middle portions in the vein of a good Hui Brothers styled movie, just that it didn't know how to end with a bang.

Nonetheless this movie has already set a record, and remains the local film to beat in terms of dollars. I would reckon for those interested in the revival of local films, or to chart the progress and sophistication of Jack Neo movies, then this is perhaps the movie to begin with.

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