The King Of Musang King Review: Jack Neo’s Durian Biz Farce — Surprise! — Is Actually Not Bad, But Starts To Smell When Shifts Focus To Middle-Age Romance - 8days Skip to main content

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The King Of Musang King Review: Jack Neo’s Durian Biz Farce — Surprise! — Is Actually Not Bad, But Starts To Smell When Shifts Focus To Middle-Age Romance

You aren’t going to laugh out loud but you don’t keep cringing either.

 

The King Of Musang King Review: Jack Neo’s Durian Biz Farce — Surprise! — Is Actually Not Bad, But Starts To Smell When Shifts Focus To Middle-Age Romance

The King of Musang King: Yeo Yann, Jack Neo, Mark Lee, and Henry Thia can't decide how to end the movie. 

The King Of Musang King (PG13)

Starring Jack Neo, Mark Lee, Henry Thia, Yeo Yann Yann, Glenn Yong, Gadrick Chin, Angeline Teoh

Directed by Jack Neo

Here's a tip. Jack Neo should make more movies out of Singapore.

For a change of scenery, fresh air and a new subject matter. Like this Malaysian fruit here.

Put it this way like any decent durian that's a matter of taste, The King Of Musang King is not bad for a Jack Neo comedy.

It's still lightweight, predictable and brightly lit even for a TV movie-ish flick. But thankfully, Neo's serial product placements are whittled down to basically one obvious big sell since its name is in the title.

Plus, away from the hang-up of pitching Singaporean, he's more relaxed in foreign territory as a director and laidback as an actor in taking a supporting role while dispensing durian wisdom with white hair and an over-practised jiuhu accent he seems particular about.

Neo's fruitful venture is palatable, not terrible. Not great, but not grating. And while you aren't going to laugh out loud, you won't keep cringing either.

“This is the beauty of mother nature,” he waxes about his lovingly nurtured trees as durian seller and botanical eco-warrior, Wang Mao Shan. Does Mao Shan Wang get name permutation royalties?

Wang surveys his vast Musang King plantation in Pahang with his “T to T” tree to table biz plan to export flash-frozen durians direct from trees for same-day consumption around the world.

You'd think this is a global story. But it turns out to be only a backdrop to a safer deal a rural heartland love triangle involving a middle-aged threesome, himself included.

If this was a French foodie tale, we'd understand the meaning of a pungent aroma. A Stephen Chow fruit farce would be nonsensically hilarious.

It's fascinating to see durians tied up like yo-yos in trees as part of the cultivation. There's surely a comical homicidal gag lurking about a lump of thorns dropping on someone's head. If only it's milked.

But alas, no. Because this is still a Jack Neo film that sucks you inevitably into domestic troubles and squabbles.

His passive, peaceful towkay Wang is caught up in the non-existent marriage between an emotional neighbouring seller, Liu Mei Lian (Yeo Yann Yann in a dramatic movie of her own), and her antagonistic hustler husband, Ong Kim Shui (Mark Lee). The latter returns suddenly from Singapore after an absence of 20 years to make this a Malaysian-tradition-vs-Singaporean-ggression showdown.

Wang helps the grateful Liu turn her fruits from flop to fab in three instant years with his awesome tree-growth expertise while also growing goo-goo eyes for her. To the disgust of her grown kids– Ah Liang (Glenn Yong) and Ah Mei (Malaysian influencer Angeline Teoh) — who are suspicious of his intentions.

Despite Uncle Guru being so hands-off with their mother, he's virtually armless. You don't get how Neo's Lake Placid impersonation could lead to a love thing here. But maybe it's just me.

The high-strung mum urges her low-respect children to learn from the master. But Gen D (for durian) wants to dump the intruding suitor since they have hipper ideas to sell their fruit via live-selling on the internet.

These live-sell scenes are the weakest segments of this movie. They're over-stretched, repetitive and boring with Neo referencing good pal Wang Lei's vulgar online problems in Malaysia to dull effect.

Such modern enterprise upsets the natural order dictated by a durian mafia a caricatured trio of old bullies  controlling distribution and prices all the way to Singapore. Mum and boyfriend are terrified about offending these gods. But the upstart kids confront them to elder-abuse level.

Here's where Musang King nearly becomes interesting with Henry Thia, Ong's goofy Singaporean sidekick, providing a fascinating expose on the durian trade in Singapore before the show pivots back to mere domesticity.

The youngsters are egged on in their disruption by their returnee dad who has a change of heart and wants to rekindle his marriage with his pissed-off wife. You see both sides of their spat in he-said-she-said flashbacks, although you don't quite know who's the villain since Neo seems vague to presumably please both genders.

You realise then that Neo, even when it comes to the matter of a big fruit, is still all about small family issues.

He has Yeo and Lee do the dramatic heavy lifting and they are good together in their seriously emotive moments. But when it turns readily into a comically bigger crowd, it gets unwieldy and uneven. How do folks who don't get along suddenly get along and then go back to being rivals again?

Neo does stage a clever Covid quarantine sequence with the competing beaus practising absurd safe distancing that borders on a nutty farce.

You can smell the quality almost emanating here.

You know, just like in a durian. (3/5 stars)

Photos: mm2 Entertainment

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