Jack Neo’s Ah Boys to Men《新兵正传》Gala Premiere

Ah Boys to Men gala premiere
Ah Boys to Men gala premiere

Thanks to the folks from GV Singapore, I watched Singapore’s top movie director, Jack Neo‘s latest movie, Ah Boys to Men《新兵正传》two weeks ago at the gala premiere at GV VivoCity.

Long time readers of my blog will know that I am not a big fan of the SAF and NS. I think it put Singaporean males at a disadvantageous position when we enter the workforce two years later than our female counterpart, not to mention having to compete for jobs with younger foreigners. Worse still, I find the ten years of reservist cycle way too long and disruptive to our civilian lives – after giving SAF two and a half prime years of my youth, it is still not enough?

Nonetheless, I still suck it up and served, knowing all these are part of my obligation being born a Singapore male.

I am stating these upfront so readers will know my review of the movie will definitely be skewed.

When I first knew that Jack Neo was making this movie to coincide with SAF’s 40th anniversary, my first thought was that the movie must be 200% funded by MINDEF as a propaganda strategy.

I was wrong. MINDEF only facilitated the shoots and provided expert military consultation in the filming. They did not provide any funding at all. Nonetheless, there were still some pretty cheesy propaganda moments.

The movie turned out better than I expected though. Sans the propaganda messages and the plentiful blatant product endorsement from a bak kwa brand, an auditing firm, a telco and a F&B outlet. Then again, James Bond movies like the latest, Skyfall, falls into the same trap these days.

The opening of the film featured a long battle sequence of Singapore under attack by foreign enemies. This is definitely something that I have not seen before in previous Jack Neo’s movies (or any Singapore-made movies) and kudos to him for achieving such high production standards. Sadly, the transition from the battle scene (which turns out to be a video game) to a storyline revolving around boys going through their army training was a bit of an anticlimax.

Jack Neo has chosen to use a main cast of mostly new faces, plucked from Internet blogs and video stars mixed with a few veteran actors and actresses like Irene Ang, Liu Qian Yu and Wang Lei. I find the mix rather refreshing and the new faces are fun to watch.

The lead actor Joshua Tan played the role of a spoilt brat adjusting to army life very well. I also like Wang Wei Liang’s acting as Lobang. Probably due to his Getai training, his comic timing is impeccable, just like his uncle, Wang Lei.

(L to R): Wang Wei Liang, Noah Yap, Joshua Tan and Maxi Lim (picture via CyberPioneer)
(L to R): Wang Wei Liang, Noah Yap, Joshua Tan and Maxi Lim (picture via CyberPioneer)

The older cast in the movie were all superb, easily holding their on against the boys, though they have significantly less screen time.

The scenes showing the army of the past were really funny. Were those really true? Stand by bed in the parade square? I would like to think I have it tougher than the new recruits today, but from the movie, I think my level of suffering was somewhere in between.

There were some moments in the film where I can identify with what the boys went through during my two and a half years in “national slavery”. I am sure many other Singaporean men will agree. This is the perfect show for male bonding.

I do not like to give star ratings for movies as I find it subjective, depending on which audience group you are rating the movie for.  This movie is definitely a crowd-pleaser like all of Jack Neo’s other movies. Heartlanders will enjoy it; Singapore males who have serve in the army will enjoy it (even if you hate SAF like I do); the average family audience will enjoy it. Serious film critics and art house fanatics should stay away – you have be warned.

The movie has done very well at the box-office. It has broken local box-office records by earning more than $1.5 million over its opening weekend, in the process beating James Bond movie Skyfall, which was in its second week of release. The movie raked $1,509,422 from Thursday (Nov 8) to Sunday (Nov 11), giving it the biggest opening weekend ever for a local movie. With 37 prints in cinemas, it beat the previous record-holder, the 2008 comedy Ah Long Pte Ltd, also directed by Neo, which had made $1,484,000 with 50 prints in its opening weekend over Chinese New Year.

Ah Boys to Men《新兵正传》is now showing in Singapore cinemas. It is a two-part movie. This is just the first part. Go catch it if you are not a film critic or art house fanatic! 🙂

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