A struggle to keep it believable

93 minutes / Opens tomorrow
2 stars

THE STORY: Adopted and raised by a getai show organiser (Marcus Chin), Eric Kwek (Chen Tianwen) has been trained all his life to become a professional singer. However, with no looks and no real talent, he has only his resolve to go on.

This film is un-un-unbelievably bad. Then again, everyone saw that coming.

Unbelievable, the original music video that inspired this movie, was an instant hit after it was posted online in April, riding on a bunch of deliberately ridiculous lyrics and a hilariously camp performance by veteran actor Chen Tianwen.

Everything about the 2 1/2-minute clip was cheesy but catchy and had the right makings of a viral success. However, to milk it and drag it into a full-length feature film makes the nonsense go on for far too long.

The struggles that took writer-director Ong Kuo Sin (who also created the original video) to develop a solid back story to stretch over 90 minutes is evident throughout the entire work.

Everything is all over the place, with the story going off in so many wacky tangents that the film comes across as a mishmash of distinct sketches.

The most cringeworthy bits are the flashback sequences, when the film takes viewers back to Kwek's growing-up years in the 1980s.

Chen tries to disguise himself with big sunglasses and wigs, but there is nothing convincing about the 52-year-old actor in the role of a teenager.

Whenever his co-star Marcus Chin, 61, tries to parent him in these scenes, they ring false.

Still, it is clear that Chen is utterly heartfelt in his performance.

The Golden Horse-nominated actor (Ilo Ilo, 2013) throws himself into the role completely, no matter how embarrassing it requires him to be - from singing horrendously off-key to donning awful, tacky outfits.

There are moments when he brings a sense of melancholy to the role, as he convincingly displays all the insecurities of a washed-up singer with no money and friends.

These are the bits the film begs to have more of, not the same one-note madcap humour lifted from the original video clip.

Sometimes, it is good to know when to rein in the craziness.

This article was first published on December 2, 2015.
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