This Jack Neo-directed Singaporean film pays homage to the men of National Service while dishing out the laughs.
By Annabelle Low
Ken Chow is an impulsive rich kid who is used to getting what he wants. He is also due to enlist for National Service in two weeks. Ken’s overprotective mother (played by the fabulous Irene Ang) tries, to no avail, all that she can to get her precious boy out of it, including attempting to persuade a doctor to certify him unfit for duty and talking to a Member of Parliament during a Meet the MP session.
A disgruntled Ken is sent packing to the infamous Pulau Tekong, where he meets his fellow section mates of Platoon 2 Section 2, a motley crew of NS stereotypes such as the chao geng (one who feigns sickness or injury) warrior, wayang (one with a tendency to be dramatic) king, and lobang (one who is resourceful, in the loop on business-making opportunities or good deals).
During the Basic Military Training, Ken works very hard to fake all sorts of injuries and illnesses in order to have an “easy” NS life, personifying and earning the reputation of being a chao geng warrior. When his girlfriend leaves him for another man, Ken decides to get a long-term MC so that he can win her back, but to disastrous consequences.
Despite its obvious CGI and special effects, Ah Boys To Men’s blatantly didactic opening scene is unexpectedly sobering and reminds you of the very real possibility of what could happen if there was an attack on Singapore. In fact, a few minutes into opening scene, my friend turned to me with wide eyes and whispered, “I just watched my house get blown up!” The movie alternates between modern day and flashbacks from the 1960s, which will surely resonate with older moviegoers.
One must applaud the ambition of the film—only Jack Neo could execute a movie of this scale in Singapore. The S$3 million dollar movie took 70 days to film and included shutting down a busy street in Shenton Way, as well as an unprecedented level of MINDEF co-operation for filming at Pulau Tekong and military equipment.
As Neo could not condense his material into one film, part two of Ah Boys To Men will be out in February 2013. His signature heartland humor is well utilized in tempering the gravity of some very plausible scenarios, making the movie enjoyable for families.
Everyone must watch this! And to all the sons of Singapore out there, thank you for serving our nation.