881 (2007)

One of the most crowd-pleasing Singaporean films of the 2000s, Royston Tan’s getai movie is both riotously funny and a tearjerking melodrama.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Review #214

Dir. Royston Tan
2007 | Singapore | Comedy/Drama/Musical | 115 mins | Mandarin, English, Hokkien & Cantonese

PG (passed clean) for some sexual references

Cast: Qi Yuwu, Mindee Ong, Yeo Yann Yann
Plot: Two wannabe singers dream of the big stage in getai. But at what cost?
Awards: Nom. for Best Makeup & Costume Design (Golden Horse)
Source: Mediacorp Raintree Pictures

Accessibility Index
Subject Matter: Moderate – Ambition; Living Life to the Fullest
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Pace: Normal
Audience Type: Mainstream

Viewed: In Theatres
First Published: 18 Aug 2007
Spoilers: No

The film that got Royston Tan into the mainstream, 881 is a ‘classic’ of 2000s Singapore cinema, and remains to be one of the most crowd-pleasing movies to come out of the tiny little island, this side of Jack Neo.

881 is a prime example of first-rate marketing. The fact that it’s still pulling the crowds in droves almost a month after its release is a strong testament to its impact on local audiences. Tan’s work is essentially a tear-jerking drama with comedic elements, and not the other way round which some might suggest.

The storyline is modest at best – to dream big, live life to the fullest, and most importantly, to have a circle of true supportive friends – however, the remarkable acting abilities of the cast far surpass what these kinds of stories can typically offer.

881 is culturally vibrant with colourful sets and an admirable sound design production. Tan’s fluid camera is there to capture all the goodness that getai (a Chinese tradition in which singers publicly perform songs that are sung usually in dialect) can offer.

Tan’s film is both riotously funny and a potent tearjerker. Best of all, it is a film about the warm spirit of human connection.

Grade: B+



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