Jack Neo’s new movie We Not Naughty gets to the heart of delinquency.
By Dawn Seow
Jack Neo’s Chinese New Year movie, the social comedy, We Not Naughty, previews this weekend and opens in local theaters on Jan. 19.
Its production cost of S$1.5 million makes We Not Naughty the most expensive local film ever made. And it shows: Neo pioneers the use of a helicam in Singapore: a remote-controlled helicopter that captures aerial shots that human hands cannot.
Neo conducted a live demonstration of the helicam at a press conference to show off its unique capabilities. “This filming technique has been used in Hollywood, and We Not Naughty is the first local production to use it,” the director said excitedly. “With this technology, we can now film from the air and water; the helicam can reach places we humans cannot go.” Given the restrictions the Singapore government has for filming of the city area from helicopters, “this technology is especially useful for us.”
Thanks to the helicam, the movie has a stunning opening sequence that features a backdrop of HDB flats and Orchard Road captured from a fresh point of view.
Casting—another of Neo’s strong suits—is a coup here, boasting big Asian names like Hong Kong singer-actor Daniel Chan, multi-facet artist Eric Moo, Taiwanese actress Cherry Hsia among popular local artists Joshua Ang, Shawn Lee, Xiang Yun and well-known singer-songwriter Loi Fey Huei.
Though these veteran artists are the main draw, the audience will enjoy quality performance from brand new talents that Neo discovered. The director’s gift for spotting talent and drawing out their best is evidenced in the performances of the newbies.
In one of the most touching scenes, newcomer Cheryl Yeo wept in the arms of her mother (played by Xiang Yun), saying over and over again, “Mummy I love you”. There was not a dry eye in the house.
Jack Neo’s movies are loved for their moving storylines. We Not Naughty revolves around two schoolboys Wei Jie (Shawn Lee) and Jian Ren (Joshua Ang), who are best friends. Because of their family problems, they eventually become runners for a loan shark, Qiang (Loi Fey Huei). Worried that they were going to get caught, the boys come up with the idea to invent a “debt-collecting machine” that does the dirty work of splashing paint on debtors’ doors. They approached CK (Daniel Chan), their school lecturer for help to build this machine. CK’s belief that the boys are not naughty by nature causes him to enter into cahoots with them. They successfully build their invention—only to discover that Qiang has other dastardly plans for the machine.
We Not Naughty plays on the themes that Neo built his career on: an unhappy family that cannot communicate, a son turned rebellious to gain his mother’s attention; a child whose values are confused by parents with mixed morals. These issues relate directly to the audience, and bring home the message that one must take responsibility for one’s own life.
“That’s the good thing about movies; they remind us of values we may have forgotten. When we watch it in the movies, we’re able to relate and we feel connected to the show,” said Neo.
The director hopes that his film will convey a message to delinquent youths, and to parents who don’t give enough attention to their children. “Many parents want to have a good relationship with their children, but the only way to achieve that is to spend time with them. If they don’t communicate with their children, they will never know what they think or what they like,” said the father of four.
As the message of the movie goes, everyone has a choice as to which path he or she will take, so choose wisely.