881 the movie

I watched 881 today. I heard it was doing much better than another local movie I watched recently, Gone Shopping. The cinema we were in, at Great World City, was about half full on a Monday night
All this while, it didn’t occur to me why the movie was named that way. Even though I saw the trailer and knew there were Papaya sisters. Literally translated, Ba Ba Yao = 8 8 1! Duh.

I can see how this movie hits the mainstream audience here in Singapore. It’s colourful and managed to draw chuckles out of the audience every minute (at least in the beginning of the show). It was often exaggerated, sometimes stereotypical and often incredulous. The special effects were bordering between cheesy and ingenuous because it gave some characters ‘supernatural’ powers which they used to battle each other or bestow blessings. If you had to give it a prize, it would probably be for Best Costume. A lot of effort went into it, obviously.
While some may say sex sells, there was none of it in this movie, just talk of it. I have to give the film some credit for that. It entertained in other ways without having to be slutty. Although there was a lot of eye candy and a major ‘bitch fight’.
I had to admit the music was catchy, despite me never listening to it before. Techno ge tai was a breakthrough and the Durian sisters looked pretty hot, though even I cringed at their attempts to speak Mandarin during a confrontation with the Papaya sisters.
Then the thought occured – the lyrics in the Hokkien songs were about life’s hardships. It was like singing the Blues! That revelation ran through my mind every time a sad song was sung by one of the characters. That’s how it went – it was more like a musical, with people breaking into song at different points in the movie. They didn’t need to be on a proper stage.
*major spoiler ahead*
There were a few parts that baffled me. I was surprised to see how people get cursed by someone who takes a slipper and hits a wooden figurine representing them. That looked like black magic to me. Is that the normal way of settling disputes?! But it was portrayed in a tragicomical way in the movie, keeping to the generally lighthearted tone.
However it’s probably not a show I’d watch again and again. It didn’t speak to me because I don’t see why it was so important that there needed to be a contest in the first place. I’ve not been to a ge tai performance myself and won’t pretend to understand the culture or religious practices. Maybe most other Chinese Singaporeans may. It’s probably a sense of belonging, of wanting to sing – to do something they think is meaningful.
And the end scene? I know it’s just a movie but I was thinking, ‘That’s not her! It’s just a familiar spirit pretending to her!’ and if it happened to me I’d be rebuking it instead of singing with it. I’ve had my fair share of real experiences to not want to dabble with the afterlife.