Courtesy of MX
Theres no better argument for the severity of form witnessed in Royston Tans 4:30 than his Getai (song stage) themed, 881. The films dangerously epileptic flashiness is pockmarked with plenty of familiar Stephen Chow paraphernalia pandemonium, mania, indulgency, lunacy etc as if to suggest a broadening of his repertoire to include more commercially viable (potentially vapid) notches to his belt. And to his credit, Tan channels more than just the Hong Kong comic maestros playfully absurdist takes on conventional wisdoms but also audaciously attempts to mimic filmmaking compatriot Jack Neos distinctive use of local patois to reinforce his assaults on the heartlands fragile sensibilities, and in the process finds himself traversing the same pitfalls Neos seemingly encumbered by even after a decade.
881 drops a bomb of overwhelming pageantry on the serious business of Getai, a series of concerts performed for spirits during the seventh lunar month in various estates around Singapore. While being ethnically isolating or perhaps just intensely focused on a singular Singaporean theme, the film aggrandises the antics assumed with the sub-culture and amplifies it into camp hyperventilation. Much of the fun comes from the acceptance of musical staples (songs apparently culled from real Getai sources) with no requirement to pin down a number against the hoary extravagance of a Getai stage or inside a character's head.
Tans stylistic flourishes through explosions of colour and visual panache, aims for ebullience when its main duo, the Papaya sisters (Yeo Yann Yann and Mindee Ong) relish in their newly refined ability to sing, granted by a flamboyantly decked out Goddess of Getai played by a fearlessly exuberant Liu Ling Ling in a separate role, in addition to the sisters goofy guardian and mother to a stoic stud (Qi Yu Wu) who refuses to choke his chicken from time to time.
Regardless, the film certainly takes its time in circling the drain at its terminus, taking a few pit stops into accidental hilarity along the way through the sheer overwrought verbosity of familial melodramatics that border on parody and eventually desiccates the brimming life force from the rest of the proceedings that endeavours to move along at the speed of light. Granted, eventually Tan soldiers through the silliness of taking a crack at female bonding to get to its inevitable, grandiose showdown between the Durian skanks and petite yet potent Papaya sisters, but by then all anyone can be thankful for is that Royston Tan understands why a good @#%$ joke never grows old.