A broadly played comedy about three money hungry brothers, “Money No Enough 2″ is an overdue and overlong sequel to the most domestically successful Singaporean film of all time. Helmed by hitmaking multihyphenate Jack Neo, who wrote the 1998 original, new entry opens with a bang before flattening out and listing in the final stretch with a lengthy detour into maudlin melodrama. Pic did terrific business on July 31 domestic release, joining the top rank of locally produced hits. Limited regional play is possible, but prospects further afield look slim.The first film made under the Neo Studios banner launches with an amusing setpiece poking fun at the love-hate relationship Singaporeans have with rules and regulations. Set to a rousing song about locals enjoying high standards of living while suffering all kinds of taxes and official nannying, the partly animated sequence ends with triumphant crowds tossing CGI renditions of Singapore’s dreaded road toll gates into the harbor. Although criticism of officialdom is guarded, the passage is radical by Singaporean standards. Trio of brothers are played by original cast members, though the characters are different. Eldest is Yang Bao Hui (Henry Thia), a meek type who wants a taste of the good life after 30 years as a lowly delivery man. Opportunity knocks when he attends a fevered rally at the workplace of youngest brother Huang (Mark Lee), a revved-up seller of health supplements derived from pollen. Neo takes on the less prominent role of Qiang, a well-to-do businessman who’s mortgaged to the hilt and nagged by his wealth-flaunting wife, Ling Ling (Zhu Ling Ling). Besides looking at every aspect of life in monetary terms, the boys are united by blindness to the fact that their mother, Mrs. Yang (Malaysian vet Lai Ming), is showing the first signs of dementia. Opening reels lampooning the brothers’ worship of wealth and status are the best. Performers make the most of Neo’s rapid-fire dialogue, with Thia standing out as the schlub telling anyone within earshot he’s now an important manager. Pic loses pep when the brothers’ greed backfires, and they’re forced to take increasingly drastic action to save face and fortune. Running parallel to this is the rapid physical and mental deterioration of the mother, whose welfare becomes a source of bickering among the siblings and the butt of some terribly unfunny jokes about senility. Virtually abandoning comedy in the final half-hour, story limps home as a tear-jerker with forced messages about the value of compassion and family unity. Lensing by regular Neo cameraman Ardy Lam is clean, and a bouncy soundtrack featuring several songs written by Neo helps maintain the early momentum. Rest of tech work is pro.
A Neo Studios, MediaCorp Raintree Pictures, Scorpio East Pictures production. (International sales: Neo Studios, Singapore.) Produced by Toong Soo Wei, Seah Saw Yam, Lim Teck. Executive producers, Jack Neo, Philip Wu, Daniel Yun, John Ho. Directed by Jack Neo. Screenplay, Neo, Ho Hee Ann.
Camera (color), Ardy Lam; editor, Martyn See; music, Benny Wong; art director, Kenneth Kee; costume designer, Lyn Yong; sound (Dolby Digital), Jason Tan; assistant director, Marcus How; casting, Angie Ho. Reviewed at Bangkok Film Festival (Southeast Asian Panorama), Sept. 28, 2008. Running time: 125 MIN.
Jack Neo, Mark Lee, Henry Thia, Lai Ming, Lin Ru Ping, Zhu Ling Ling, Vivian Lai. (Mandarin, Hokkien, English dialogue)