So far, everything that Ah Boys to Men 4 touched turned Buzzfeed: just look at its teaser trailer. As of now, it has garnered well over 1.1 million views with over 24K Shares (BTW this is a very misleading trailer: NSmen don’t talk like this).
And its official trailer? In Facebook alone, it has got 1.2 million views and over 17K Shares.
Given that Singapore has a population of about 5.6 million, that kind of result is not just great, but a phenomenal success.
Now, with such big shoes to fill, does it live up to its expectations?
I just watched it yesterday, and all I can say is that unless you’re an NSman like me, you might feel frustrated with it instead.
Just some context for some who have been living in a cave: the Ah Boys to Men franchise is one of the most popular, and most profitable, local movie franchises.
Ah Boys to Men 4 departed from its Chinese name of “新兵正传” and focused on reservist soldiers instead: in other words, it really shouldn’t have been called “新兵正传” now. It should be called “老兵正传”.
In Singapore, every male civilian, after going through two years of mandatory NS, would still have to attend ten cycles of ICT, in which they report back to camp for a one-week or two-week training every year.
Other than that, their duty to the country includes passing a physical test every year (IPPT) and having to report back to camp in few hours’ notice if needed (known as mob manning, but it’s usually on a Saturday morning).
Jack Neo started the movie aggressively: he showed how NSmen like us have to compromise our work commitments due to our NS commitments, and how others who won’t need to serve can commit more to their work.
While that is pretty real, it’s almost shocking for this to be openly portrayed in the big screen.
Following that, the movie spared no effort to show the authenticity of the ICT culture: from the “first-thing-to-do-in-ICT-is-canteen-break” to the bochup-ness of NSmen.
Even the brotherhood and how people communicate are on point: you never see anyone calling a person’s rank. In fact, you might not remember anyone’s rank until there’s a briefing (familiar, NSmen?).
As an NSman, this is like a trip back to my camp.
But ABTM is all about the laughs, and while there were some good ones, there isn’t a memorable one in this movie. Lobang is the only one who seem to deliver the best Hokkien jokes around.
The rest of the jokes could make you laugh, but not to the extent of a stomach-ache, unlike those in its predecessors.
Now, everything seems okay (at least to an NSman)…until you realize the numerous overtly product placements.
In fact, I won’t even call it product placements: they’re native advertisements instead.
Understandably that advertisement has evolved, and more money have been diverted from the typical “to-the-face” TVCs to subtle ads in video contents, Ah Boys to Men 4 took it to a whole new level.
The characters weren’t just passing an umbrella and walking off with a KPMG polo tee: characters would talk about the products, and even convince another character to buy it with its USP.
I remember that people used to laugh when the KPMG staff walked off in the first ABTM: Now, in ABTM4, people weren’t laughing. In fact, someone even cursed.
Given that Goody Feed is in the business of native advertisements, it won’t be apt for me to complain about it, but here’s the thing: if there are just a few, I won’t mind because it’s all business. But having one after another after another without an end?
Maybe it’s just too much.
You see, the only reason that I would recommend this movie is the realistic re-enactment of our NSmen culture: and with not everyone being an NSman, it might just suffer from the box office.
But despite its shortcomings, the movie managed to convey a very strong message: the sacrifices made by NSmen that everyone seems to have taken for granted. Yeah, we’re forced to go back for training, but the effort to strike a balance between work and training (which is portrayed) isn’t easy.
Personally, I would give it a 4/5 star (as an NSman to another NSman). You won’t need to be in the Armour formation to relate to it: it’s relatable as long as you’re in an active unit. Bring your SO out and show her why we’ve always looked at ICT as a paid chalet to lose weight.
But to a person who’s just there for a laugh? A 3/5 star—if you can tahan all the native ads.
Since you’re here, why not watch a video about an NTU student who went all out to impress his crush, only to end up in…tragedy? Here, watch it and do remember to share it (and also subscribe to Goody Feed YouTube channel)!
This article was first published on goodyfeed.com
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