Despite being heavily panned by critics, the first part of Ah Boys to Men
went on to become the highest grossing local movie to date, earning more than S$6 million at the local box office and beating the fourteen year old record held by Money No Enough
at the same time. This shows how accepting Singapore's moviegoers are to Jack Neo's brand of crass humour and melodrama. The sequel, simply named Ah Boys to Men 2
, continues directly from where the first part haphazardly concluded with Recruit Ken Chow (Joshua Tan) returning to Basic Military Training Centre (BMTC), Pulau Tekong, to continue his Basic Military Training (BMT). He has turned over a new leaf following his sudden epiphany, and is now more enthusiastic about his training than the obnoxious Recruit Aloysius Jin (Maxi Lim) aka Wayang King, who, in turn, is threatened by Ken's new attitude. This change, as expected, did not go down well with the rest of his section mates, especially, his ex-partner in crime, Recruit Lobang (Wang Weiliang). Meanwhile, Recruit IP Man's (Noah Yap) girlfriend left him for another man.Ah Boys to Men 2
is an inferior extension of the first movie in pretty much every aspect. For the script, it was way too predictable, someone inevitably made a "noble" sacrifice at some point and all grudges were forgotten as quickly as the weekend book outs ending during BMT. Unfortunately, Jack Neo also took the liberty of inserting as many crude jokes as possible, burdening the movie with off putting scenes of toilets and excretory products, and not to mention, the appalling objectification of women in military service and in public. These proved to be critical mistakes as they overshadowed the camaraderie of the section mates which is the promised focus of Part 2.
As with all of his other 19 films, Jack Neo skimmed on sensitive issues, like the already overused subject on Foreign Talent without much depth. Those who lamented that Part 1 concentrated too much on one character without any development for other characters, beware of what you wished for. In this sequel, all the section mates get more screen time. However, by doing so, the almost non-existent plot was stretched to paper thinness and yet, without much improvement in character development as there is no clear direction. While Ken pop up here and there, assisting Aloysius in preaching the correct attitude toward National Service, it is Lobang who carried this film, unexpectedly.
Part 2 has more scenes involving actual military training in BMTC, as compared to the previous part, which may stir nostalgia in some but this is not enough to forgive the many flaws and shortcomings of this film. Ultimately, it is a movie that supposed to tell a proper story and not a documentary. The cast, weighed down by a terrible script, also failed to perform. Joshua Tan as Ken Chow continues his streak of portrayal with limited range and Noah Yap, in contrast, overacted. Maxi Lim was forgettable and it is fortunate that most of the scenes focused on Lobang as Wang Weiliang might be the most natural of the lot. The others in the platoon are just not worth mentioning as there is not much for them to do. The veteran supporting cast was acceptable in their roles, but not brilliant. Irene Ang continues her undertaking of the overly protective mother with not much surprise. On the other hand, Richard Low is stunning as compared to his performance in the first part. After his character suffered a stroke which stops his incessant propagandistic speeches, he is actually quite enjoyable to watch. The well-known local blogger, Lee Kin Mun or better known as Mr Brown, made a cameo as the assessor of the situational test. His entertaining sequence is perhaps the highlight of the movie even though it ended with cheap computer generated wild boars that will make Twilight
's wolves look like a masterpiece. Chen Tianwen appears as Aloysius's father in an unnecessary and superfluous scene in a food court, which serves as an opportunity for Jack Neo to play with computer-generated imagery (CGI) and nothing more. Together with this scene, the scene during the field camp with imaginary fans, the coffee in the platoon sergeant's office and all scenes involving bakkwa are just obvious product placements, typical of a Jack Neo's movie. It is a pity that after all these years, Jack Neo has not improved in this aspect. Product placements may be inevitable but at least effort should be made to better integrate them. The pacing suffered due to the weak plot, product placements and largely because of the excessive use of lingering shots of local scenery and slow motion.
With duration of almost 2 hour, Ah Boys to Men 2
appears to be an opportunistic attempt to rake in more money and offers nothing more to the table. There is no doubt that it will be a juggernaut at the box office this Lunar New Year as it has been proven that most moviegoers are quite attuned to Jack Neo's pandering ways but local movie industry can only truly march forward and flourish if and only if mediocrity is no longer condoned.
Verdict: If you are a fan of Jack Neo's movies, it is unlikely you will miss his 20th feature and if you are not a fan, Ah Boys to Men 2
is unlikely to change your opinion and convert you into one.
Ps. As a continuation of Part 1, despite being supported by Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), this movie doesn't really bring across a positive image of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) with all the above mentioned flaws and gang fight which was not followed up by the police (weird!).