Jack Neo’s latest edition to Singaporean Cinema is Wonderful Liang Xi Mei (旺得福梁细妹). If you’re familiar with the character Liang Xi Mei (梁细妹), you’ll know that she made her debut on Singapore TV back in 1996 on Comedy Night (搞笑行动). She quickly became one of the most iconic characters that we associate with Jack Neo, along with Liang Popo (梁婆婆). A little known fact about Liang Xi Mei? She was actually created by one of the producers at Mediacorp, or the then-TCS.
Liang Xi Mei was so popular that there were two spinoffs headlined by the character after Comedy Night’s run ended, 2002 and 2003’s Liang Ximei and The Return of Liang Xi Mei. Liang Xi Mei then graced the small screens once again by appearing in the variety show Happy Can Already in 2016. The TV show — the first in 30 years to be made in Teochew, Hokkien, and Cantonese in Singapore — is currently in its third season.
But the one thing that Liang Xi Mei has never starred in before this Chinese New Year? A movie — and she’s looking to change that in 2018.
*Mild Spoilers Ahead*
How Wonderful Liang Xi Mei 旺得福梁细妹 Was Made
“Wonderful Liang Xi Mei” was actually put into production because the filming of Ah Boys To Men 5, which was set for Chinese New Year 2018, had to be postponed due to the large scale of production and the logistics behind filming with armoury.
The JTeam Productions searched around for an idea of a movie that would be suitable as a replacement for their lineup and settled on telling the story of Liang Xi Mei and her family, bringing together Singapore’s Comedy Night trio Jack Neo, Mark Lee, and Henry Thia on the big screen for the first time in 9 years. The last time they were on the silver screen together was in Money No Enough.
The Story of Wonderful Liang Xi Mei 旺得福梁细妹 The Movie
Liang Xi Mei has 2 sons, Albert and Robert. Albert (Benjamin Josiah Tan), gets doted on more often as the younger brother who doesn’t cause trouble. But Robert (Mark Lee) has never gotten any love from his mother. He and his family still lives under the same roof as Xi Mei, and he doesn’t pay any rent or household expenses.
Then the Goddess of Fortune (财神婆) appears in Robert’s life after a round of Chinese New Year shopping with Xi Mei, and gives him a chance to prove himself. Will Robert finally make a name for himself and receive the love he wants from his mother? We’ll have to watch the movie to find out.
The rest of the plot is convoluted and messy, ranging from Robert’s children trying to get themselves kidnapped, to a conclusion — we won’t say much so we won’t be spoiling you, but you do get a glimpse into Xi Mei’s life as a young single mother — that reeks a little too much of deus ex machina and plot conveniences.
The Blatant Advertising in Wonderful Liang Xi Mei 旺得福梁细妹
Probably about 30% of the film felt like blatant advertising for the Singaporean government to its citizens on medical benefits to the elderly with the CHAS card, or how 1 in 9 Singaporeans get diabetes, or plugs for not paying carpark fines if you download Parking.sg on your phone. You won’t miss the product placements for Ribena and A1 Abalone as the camera lingers too long on these products and the characters expound on their benefits.
These plugs aren’t subtle at all, making it jarring to hear them at the end of a scene or during a scene, and taking the audience out of a story. But these are features that have become almost trademark at any Jack Neo movie, so picking out the advertising and product placement became almost like a game for us. Almost.
The Jokes in Wonderful Liang Xi Mei 旺得福梁细妹
Of course, audiences aren’t necessarily looking for a well-written story when they watch something directed by Jack Neo. Most of the time, they’re looking for a heartwarming movie with funny scenes that they can watch with the whole family.
For the most part, once you discount the advertisements, you do get some laughs in Wonderful Liang Xi Mei. There are plays on how Henry Thia, who plays both Lion King and Ah Gong, can only show one character at a time on screen, and satirical jokes about the Minister of Transport in Singapore. Cai Ping Kai, or 二姑 (Er Gu), as she is better known, shines as the well-meaning Goddess of Fortune.
There are self-deprecating jokes from Liang Xi Mei breaking the fourth wall at the start of the film, showing us around her home and telling the audience she really does have a lot of the same shirt she has been wearing for more than 20 years now, and that she’s not crazy for talking to herself because she really is talking to other people. Cut to: entire rows of people at a HDB block answering Xi Mei as if on cue.
Liang Popo also makes cameo appearances bookending the film, adding on to the self-deprecating jokes from Jack Neo. She announces that there will not be a sequel to this film (unlike the pentalogy that is the Ah Boys to Men films), which actually made me a little sad, especially because there’s a certain fondness you have for characters you grew up with, and I happen to be one of those 90s kids who would watch Comedy Night.
Just like Namewee watched 搞笑行动 (Comedy Night) in his MV below:
Should You Watch Wonderful Liang Xi Mei 旺得福梁细妹?
Wonderful Liang Xi Mei, like all of Jack Neo’s movies, caters to the public with his brand of low brow humour, emphasis on the importance of family values, and not being biased with your children. The 90s nostalgia surrounding Liang Xi Mei might just be enough to get you to the cinemas.
There’s nothing particularly groundbreaking about Wonderful Liang Xi Mei 旺得福梁细妹, and the advertising does get on your nerves, but it still passes as a movie to watch with the whole family this Chinese New Year. They say that there won’t be a DVD release of Wonderful Liang Xi Mei, so if you’re a fan of the character, you should probably catch Jack Neo in all his Liang Xi Mei glory.
Wonderful Liang Xi Mei releases in cinemas in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei on 15th February 2018.
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