Ah Girls Go Army Review: Jack Neo's Tone-Deaf Military Comedy Makes You Wonder When He Last Hung Out Around Young Women
C’mon, Jack, you’re better than this unflattering depiction of women.
Ah Girls Go Army (PG13)
Starring Apple Chan, Glenn Yong, Yang Guang Ke Le, Belle Chua, Xixi Lim
Directed by Jack Neo
Congratulations, Jack Neo! You’ve made the first worst movie of 2022.
If a movie is judged by the number of times I sighed, fidgeted, gasped in horror, eye-rolled, face-palmed and threatened to walk out, then Ah Girls Go Army, Neo’s latest magnum opus (the first of two parts), is a roaring success — he’s still reliably unreliable. Sigh.
The movie, an off-shoot of the obscenely lucrative Ah Boys to Men series, is set in the near future — holy smoke, Neo does sci-fi! — where females are drafted to military service due to Singapore’s shrinking male population (This whole conscription business is explained in a heavy-handed prologue; a more efficient, sophisticated storyteller would’ve used an opening scroll instead.)
And it’s all downhill from here. Tsk.
Neo may be a veteran filmmaker, but his movies always have an amateurish and slapdash telefeature feel to them, as if they were made by a noob. Or is Neo parodying his own works? Can’t tell really.
In AGGA, this lamentable state of arrested development is even more pronounced: Beneath the seemingly progressive façade, it’s aggressively regressive, especially in its unflattering depiction of women — juvenile, clueless and asinine. Seriously, do young women really behave like this? Jack, when was the last time you hung out with young women?
I can’t believe what happens in the movie, and I can’t believe that the movie was made. In what parallel universe do Neo and his collaborators/enablers think it’s remotely funny to name Xixi Lim’s plus-sized recruit ‘Yuan Yuanyuan’? (In Mandarin, ‘Yuan’ means round. Okay, we geddit — she’s overweight, you don’t have to say it three times.)
Neo really loves his name puns: he has previously caught heavy flak naming another tomboyish enlistee, played by transgender actress Kelly Kimberly Cheong, ‘Amanda Man’. He apologised and promised to change her name. But guess what? He merely dropped her last surname. Cheong’s scenes are also suspiciously reduced. Oh well, she’s all better for it.
Then again, Neo doesn’t do characters — he does caricatures and clichés and he marches to the beat of his own drum. Problem is, he’s tone-deaf. Other risible misfires: a PG-friendly hand-job gag and shenanigans involving a suicidal trainee There’s also lot of fighting. Is Neo making a women’s prison movie? Sigh.
Elsewhere, don’t get me started on the product placements, so pervasive that it’s as good as breaking down the fourth wall. Neo might as well slap a title card that says “This scene is brought to you by [insert product/brand]”. You have to admire him as a money-maker, but as a filmmaker, not as much.
At the end of the day, you have to hand it to the cast who were game enough to indulge in Neo’s worst impulses. As restitution, he should cut them a bigger slice of the box-office pie. (1/5 stars)
Photo: mm2 Entertainment