‘Make It Big Big’ is a film about the (real) lives of four local DJs at LOVE97.2 – Mark Lee, Dennis Chew, Marcus Chin and Chen Biyu. Near the bottom of the movie poster, there are the words (in Chinese) saying ‘Funny or not? Find out in the cinemas’. So I was expecting a hilarious ‘rollercoaster ride’ from start to finish, but I left the theatre with a heavy heart. In the movie, Mark Lee’s character is embroiled in a ‘fake news’ scandal while Dennis Chew has a mental health crisis. The way these issues are handled leaves much to be desired. Also, as Jack Neo’s protégé, Mark Lee has ensured that the ‘tradition’ of including cringe-worthy product placements and sponsor shoutouts is continued and he has, arguably, taken it to the next level. (I’ll not mention the sponsors as much as possible since they aren’t paying me to make a movie :P) Perhaps unintentionally, this movie ‘Make It Big Big’ has revealed crucial reasons why made-in-Singapore movies tend to suck.
Since I’ve already mentioned the sponsors, yes, let’s talk about the sponsors for movies.
In ‘Make It Big Big’, Marcus Chin tries to convince a sponsor to fund Mark Lee’s new movie. He has to entertain them but lands in hot soup when he (accidentally) pokes fun at the plump lady’s XXL size. Then there’s more apologising and pandering to the potential sponsor and especially, her mother. The latter gets Marcus to entertain her and her four other taitai friends who, whipping out their phones, want him to sing for them and hit extremely high notes. Eventually, what happens is that you learn you can pander to the sponsors and even then you may not get the funding you want. Even bringing them gifts like a gigantic hamper won’t help if you’ve not given them sufficient ‘face’ or worse, caused them to ‘lose face’.
Mark Lee also made me do multiple eye-rolls when he performs a ‘magic trick’ in the movie for his young daughter. He picks out the egg yolk from the raw egg and lets it roll around on his palm. It’s apparently… wait for it… M A G I C. Make a guess: which egg company sponsored this? 😉 His on-screen daughter then picks out more egg yolks between her thumbs and forefingers and says oh it’s because these eggs are of high quality, blah blah (insert possible sponsor-crafted message), and it’s not magic. Right. Thanks, little girl.
Just for the fun of it, I tested this with one of the very cheap and possibly not very high quality eggs bought from a supermarket nearby and O M G, it’s still possible to pinch the yolk and have it separate from the white. Of course, the advertisement for this egg company was pretty impressive though I’ve never wanted to separate yolks and whites before when cooking at home. I’m not making meringues after all.
In a similar vein, there’s this very popular skincare company that often does roadshows in Singapore. The beauty consultants love to do this ‘experiment’ to show you why you should buy their lotion together with their miracle product. On one hand of yours (the back of your palm, really), she’ll apply the lotion first then the best-selling product and it all gets absorbed into the skin (or so it seems). On your other hand, she’ll apply only the product (without the lotion) and the beads of liquid seem to stay on the surface of your skin. And therefore… you’ll have to buy them BOTH if you want to ensure your skin really benefits from this wonderful essence of youth. Now… when skin is moist, it allows for the product to get absorbed (more) easily. So, newsflash: you don’t have to use their lotion. It’s just science. Use water for the same result! (Perhaps they’ll be a sponsor for the next Jack Neo or Mark Lee movie)
Since sponsors can be a**holes, then the G might be a good source of funding. For this movie, the MCI or the Ministry of Communications and Information, is involved. Like, REALLY involved. Two ladies playing the roles of officers from the MCI (I’m not sure if they are actresses or not) have a meeting with the DJs in this movie to discuss how they want to let radio listeners know more about the PDPA.
So since you’ve got *ahem* the G’s support, no bashing of the G then. And you’ll also have to be their mouthpiece. In this movie, the PDPA is mentioned numerous times. Also, there’s the DNC and also what you should do if you ever notice a suspicious bag in public places. *yawn*
I think the main issue with sponsorship is that there’s always the need for ROI. No one is going to give a movie producer lots of money and say “Just take this and make a movie Singaporeans will love. No strings attached.”
STARS WITH REGIONAL / INTERNATIONAL APPEAL
In the movie, Mark Lee talks about wanting to film a movie about 4 DJs but he’d need to hire (more famous) actors to play the parts of his DJ pals, because the latter aren’t quite famous overseas. And stars with regional and international appeal don’t come cheap. Try getting Andy Lau to star in your movie.
In ‘Make It Big Big’, there are cameo appearances by folks like Jack Neo, Henry Thia, Zoe Tay, Fann Wong and ‘aiai’ Christopher Lee. It seems like a local movie needs a cast as huge as that of the President’s Star Charity before it’ll attract folks to the cinemas. After all, when you can watch ‘Aquaman’, why would you watch ‘Make It Big Big’? 😛
In the movie, Marcus Chin says he’ll help Mark Lee get the sponsorship if he gets to play the lead role. He finally settles for commission of 20%. Well, it’s not hard to see why the children of sponsors get to act in TV series or in movies. But whether having them around is a plus or not remains to be seen.
I don’t mind awkward film titles like ‘Make It Big Big’ if the plot’s really good. If you can’t entertain the audience, at least inspire them. Many parts of this movie are rather predictable. I knew the police were going to show up after Mark’s annoying photo with the suspicious-looking bag. And that the parrot-like professor would be the psychologist meeting Dennis Chew after his apparent mental breakdown. At first, this annoying professor was pretty funny when interviewed by Guo Liang and You Yi. But it seems the movie will flog anything good to death. They’ve forgotten to ‘见好就收’ – to know when to stop.
I think that Dennis is a really good actor so perhaps the movie could have focused a lot more on him. After all, it seems there’s a lot of buzz around mental health lately. I felt burdened instead of entertained or inspired after watching ‘Make It Big Big’ so it’s not one of those shows I’ll watch again.
Having said all that, perhaps we shouldn’t be too hard on Mark Lee since it’s his first film as a director. There are some parts which were good / somewhat funny. Such as when Marcus Chin convinces his daughter’s teacher that the young girl is not at fault for playing truant – it’s the teacher’s fault for not making lessons interesting – and that the girl should only be blamed for being stupid enough to get caught. I think we should see more of Marcus and Dennis acting in films. Mark is the typical beng so if there’s a role for an ah beng, then yes, cast him. As for Biyu, her voice is truly lovely though her acting doesn’t seem to come across as being ‘natural’ but who can blame her? Hopefully these 4 continue their careers as radio personalities and don’t produce a sequel to this movie – ‘Make It Extra Big’, ‘Make It Super Big’ (Super Coffee *wink wink*), ‘Make It Incredibly Big’ etc are all not suitable film titles.
And seriously, Mark, ‘Ah Girl To Boy’?! What were you thinking?!