Written by Yue Jie

Directed by: Jack Neo
Genre: Comedy/Drama
Running time: 113 minutes
Classification: PG13 – Some Coarse Language
Release date: 8 November 2012
Rating: 3.5 / 5
(Mandarin with English subtitles)

Think big films, and then think the Singapore context. The first and most common name that should come to mind is Jack Neo. At the 21st film of his career, Ah Boys To Men doesn’t serve as just a mere slapstick satirical comedy for the local masses, but also aims to strike deep in the hearts of Singaporeans and our nation. Helmed by the local director, this first half of a two-part feature that will hopefully garner enough attention and momentum for the release of its second half is meant to commemorate the 45th anniversary of National Service (NS) in Singapore.

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Ah Boys To Men stars a couple of new up-and-coming faces making their foray onto the big screen – Tosh Zhang, Joshua Tan, Maxi Lim, Noah Yap and Wang Wei Liang – to name a few. In an era where social media is king, Neo’s decision to select young adults for the main cast of the film has proven worthy in attracting audiences from the teenage demographic due to the strong following that some of the cast have on social networks. Not only that, having the film based on army life and Basic Military Training (BMT) that all enlistees have to go through are strong factors that will determine its success at the box office.

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As the platoon sergeant, Zhang’s acting is undoubtedly stellar and most realistic of all the cast. Tan, on the other hand, plays protagonist Ken Chow, a spoilt ignorant boy with naïve thoughts trying to evade service and feign illness to avoid training. Chow’s narrow-mindedness and refusal to change for the better comes across as irksome at times, to the annoyance of viewers. Aside from the lineup of fresh faces, the recruits have to have parents in their lives as well. Hence the presence of veteran actors Irene Ang and Richard Low who play parents to Chow. Ang portrays the typical Singapore parent who tries to ensure safety and utmost comfort of her son while Low plays the regular folk who goes strictly by the book.

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Based on comedy, Neo obviously goes all out in comedic lines and actions to evoke roars of laughter in audiences, from army lingo to the Singapore lifestyle that will relate strongly to teenagers, national servicemen and the elderly. Not forgetting some infamous incidents that put the army in the spotlight, Neo is sure to include everything there is to jolt memories of the nationwide cases that became the talk of the town. However, hilarious moments aside, Neo still ensures that Ah Boys To Men delivers a strong moral message, one that would resonate strongly with youths waiting for enlistment.

For a local production, the budget of S$3 million is one hefty sum, and a majority of it goes to the heavily computer-generated images (CGI) that make up the opening sequence of Ah Boys To Men. Undeniably the first local film ever to have CGI, some of the imagery may result in overkill for certain scenes and seem a tad unrealistic. Still, the war-like scenarios played out in our lion city are undoubtedly intriguing to watch as it’s the first time we witness our landscape in ruins and help us understand what it feels like for Americans to watch the war films that Hollywood produces.

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This local delight nonetheless adds a sense of patriotism in many of our youths today that are hopefully eager to serve the army and serves as a walk down memory lane for our folks that dedicated their time years ago. As the first local film in a long time, Ah Boys To Men is definitely the must-see feature for families and close friends over the weekend to have a great laugh at theatres and have a good time!

Check out the trailer!