Sunday, August 24, 2014

Mamak Cupcake [2014]

Director: Woo Ming Jin
Writer: M. Zulkifli
Starring: Shaheizy Sam, Siti Saleha, Faizal Ismail (FBI), Maria Farida, Natasha Hudson, Acappan
Genre: Comedy
Rating: General
Verdict: "All icing, low on sugar, and burnt on the underside..."

As heir to the family business, MJ (Shaheizy Sam) finds it hard to strike that balance between appeasing his widowed father, and nursing his secret wish of seeing his cupcakes enjoyed by many. But when he catches news of a national cupcake bake-off taking place real soon, he decides to enter because why the hell not.

What to Expect
1. An aptly colourful presentation
2. Inadequate world-building
3. Paper-thin characters
4. Uninspired script
5. Awkward editing

What NOT to Expect
1. Wit
2. Much comedy
Well-intentioned, but super dull.
When taken at face value, two things might cross your mind. One, the presentation seems pretty neat; and two, Shaheizy Sam couldn't pass as a mamak the same way I couldn't have made the cut to join Himmler's SS. But I assure you that that's the least of Mamak Cupcake's problems.

You see, despite its glossy visuals and attractive use of colours, weaknesses in the script surfaced very early in the movie, and watching it until the end felt a lot like watching a cake decompose in time-lapse for over ninety minutes.

I could end this review right there, but for the purpose of being fair, you can't simply write "This movie is not good because it's boring" and call it a review. So let's discuss why Mamak Cupcake didn't work.

For starters, the script felt like it was written by someone who had recently gone through a two-hour screenwriting workshop and decided to "try his hand" at writing one*. The result is a formulaic-but-passable first draft; with ups and downs, and a sense of plot progression; but by no means ready for the big screen. Or even the small screen, for that matter.

*Note: You don't try to be a writer. Either you are, or you aren't

Similarly, you don't try to be a mamak. You either are, or you aren't. Heh.
From the get-go you wouldn't get the sense of what world the story takes place in, and despite the director's insistence that Mamak Cupcake is a type of fantasy, at no point will you get the feel that it is. Any attempts to make it feel like a Shaolin Soccer of sorts are seen only in glimpses; two occasions, as a matter of fact, whenever MJ makes teh tarik.

Therein lies Mistake #1, and both screenwriter and director are responsible for it. When you don't establish the world well enough, people will assume that it's rooted in reality. When that happens, all the exaggerated actions and responses between characters will either seem corny, or just won't make any sense. All of these made it very confusing as to what kind of a comedy Mamak Cupcake tried to be.

Mistake #2: There's no way I could know how hard the writer worked on the script, but I can tell you that it didn't show in the end result. It was almost like the script was taken for granted because in their minds, they had set out to make a comedy, therefore serious work wasn't needed. Let's also call this Mistake #3, 4 and 5. I know, I know. Comedy is subjective.

But as subjective as comedy can be, I still say it was practically non-existent. Whatever jokes they had was purely at the expense of mamak and Indians, which are fine. But at the same time it was such a loss, because they could have played with so many things! Of course, a normal audience might not consciously think of what the film could have been.

But the crowd I was with was silent as a crypt throughout most of the film, and I can't imagine how laughless it must have been back when the film had its first script reading - that should have been the first sign of trouble.

But I digress. Let's focus on what I actually saw up there on the screen.

The dialogue didn't do the film any favours either. They were just there to get the story moving along (fine for most genres, but not comedy) and worse still, they're simply variations of "You can/can't do it", "Believe in yourself", "I can't do it", and "Okay, I'll do it". That's seriously all there is to it. See what I mean when I said it's a formulaic-but-passable first draft?

So yeah, it's arguable that Mamak Cupcake has the makings of a perfectly functional and acceptable film. Interesting cast, promising premise and it's easy on the eyes; but given the half-baked script and a director who didn't seem to know what to do with it, it makes the experience the type where you get what they're trying to go for, but fall short on all occasions.

1 comment:

nightkid said...

finally !!!! lame kot tunggu post baru......

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