Titular character Liang Ximei is missing from the plot

Jack Neo as titular character Liang Ximei in Wonderful! Liang Ximei The Movie PHOTO: YOUTUBE/WONDERFUL! LIANG XI MEI



130 minutes/Opens today/ 1 star

The story: Liang Ximei (Jack Neo) has always shown a preference for her younger son Albert (Benjamin Tan), which makes her elder son Robert (Mark Lee) extremely jealous. In trying to prove himself, Robert attempts all sorts of get-rich-quick schemes.

Singapore's favourite heartland auntie Liang Ximei makes her big-screen outing after 16 years, but the long wait is hardly worth it.

Despite the publicity selling this film as a trip down memory lane for fans of the character from the hit 1990s variety show Comedy Night, it is not even really about her at all.

Showing up only at the beginning of the film and then again briefly at the end, she feels like a complete afterthought, with her name slapped onto the movie title only for marketing purposes.

The greater link between this and Comedy Night is not the titular character, but the fact that this is also made up of a string of loosely related, slapstick-filled sketches.

The story here is focused on Ximei's son Robert and his obsession to get rich, as if this were another instalment in Money No Enough, director Jack Neo's other film series about money woes.

Robert goes from one scheme to another, whether it is buying into a property investment policy or selling Hokkien mee at a coffee shop. Some of them sound too good to be true, but he chooses to ignore advice on proceeding with caution.

When he stumbles upon a Goddess Of Fortune (played by veteran actress Cai Pingkai) who promises to help him, he becomes even more brazen in his efforts until he ends up gambling away all of his earnings.

There are clearly a number of moral lessons to be learnt here, and this being a Neo movie, nothing is subtle about any of them.

Robert's kids repeatedly ask the adults while crying exaggeratedly: "Do you really think money is more important than us?"

As expected - and this is hardly a spoiler - he eventually figures out that true wealth is having close family ties.

It is all so contrived, even by silly Chinese New Year movie standards. There is nothing wonderful about this at all.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2018, with the headline Titular character Liang Ximei is missing from the plot. Subscribe