17 April 2010

初恋红豆冰 Ice Kacang Puppy Love

Who would've thought that Malaysian pop singer Ah Niu's initial dream was to direct movies?

Playing a boy too shy to love in his directorial debut, "Ice Kacang Puppy Love" has all the star power to make this movie pop as it boasts an impressive lineup of Malaysian artists namely Lee Shinji, Gary Chaw, Victor Wong, Fish Leong, Eric Moo, Angela Chan and Yi Jet Qi. Although most of them are singers, Ah Niu and Victor Wong are the only ones contributing their vocal qualities to the film's soundtrack, which are quite pleasing to the ears.

Based on Ah Niu's childhood experiences, the film takes us to a small town where we're introduced to a timid boy nicknamed Botak (Ah Niu), who is incapable of making a good cup of Joe at his father's old fashioned coffee shop, and his love interest Da Jia Yu (aka Fighting Fish played by Lee Shinje), a feisty girl who boldly beats up bullies and whose eyes can shoot darts. From there, we meet a handful of quirky supporting characters: Big troublemaker Ma Li Fan (Gary Chaw with Aaron Kwok hairstyle) who frequently challenges Jia Yu at silly bets ranging from "guli" to fish fighting; his silent sister Ma Li Bing (Fish Leong) who keeps on drinking Barlie and has a crush on Botak; and charcoal seller Prince (Victor Wong) whom Botak's overweight sister (Lim Ching Miau) dreams of marrying.

Worthy of praise, Ah Niu cleverly handles the number of subplots, giving each enough screen time to tell their own story, yet never crowding out one another. This perfect web of puppy love help keeps the film on its toes together with great comedic timing that hits plenty of right notes to put one in the mood for romance. It's a story surrounding first loves for many of the goofy characters, where like the ice kacang dessert, contains plenty of syrupy sweetness which inevitably melts away. Moreover the cinematography is brilliantly poised with many interesting angles, especially the underwater scenes, where we are put in a fish's point of view.

The talented ensemble never failed to deliver a performance below par and has managed to execute an enjoyable childish energy. Set in the 1980s, audiences will surely reminisce over those old authentic coffee shops and favourite childhood pastimes like "guli" and fish fighting, although the fishes in combat might seem a bit hurtful to animal lovers upon seeing both fishes attacking each other violently.

Impressed with Ah Niu's movie debut, there's never a dull scene in this one and laughter will find itself around every corner. A truly wonderful bittersweet film meant for all to enjoy.


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