Here’s an unpopular opinion: I’m not a big fan of durian.
I don’t dislike it, but I don’t actively seek it out or crave it. The same goes for a typical Jack Neo movie.
Despite growing up with classics like I Not Stupid and Homerun, I have to admit that I’ve been sceptical about his recent works, with many being labelled as “cringey”, “tone-deaf” and chock-full of excessive product placements.
When news broke that the newly released The King of Musang King had taken the top spot at the Singapore box office over the Chinese New Year weekend, making S$807,000 in a mere four days, I was tasked to watch it and write a review. Because why not?
It’s a movie that has certainly borne fruit, but did it change my mind?
Believe it or not, I was actually pleasantly surprised.
The synopsis is as follows:
Mao Shan (Jack Neo) is an ambitious durian farmer who wishes to expand his sales overseas, against pressures from the “Three Heavenly Kings” of the business. He helps Mei Lian (Yeo Yann Yann), his neighbour and sole supporter, to improve her durian farm harvests, and develops feelings for her in the process. However, Mei Lian’s long-separated husband, Jin Shui (Mark Lee), returns, complicating things. Jin Shui tries to influence Mei Lian’s children against Mao Shan, as Mao Shan fights to save both their businesses and win Mei Lian’s heart.
The King of Musang King also stars Henry Thia, Malaysian influencer Angeline Teoh, and our very own Glenn Yong.
Set in Malaysia, it revolves around one of Singaporeans’ favourite indulgences — durian — but with an extra thorny dose of family drama, a middle-aged love triangle, and a script riddled with multilingual wordplay in the form of not-so-witty banter.
You get teased with gratuitous shots of the creamy and luscious fruit, which drew “oohs” and “aahs” from the audience (along with a very random Uncle Raymond cameo — no dancing involved).
There were certain segments I particularly enjoyed, especially the one depicting how the characters dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the interesting insight into the durian trade. It’s a lot more complex than you think.
One of the recurring tropes in the movie is the generation gap, which is explored through sparring sessions between a trio of villainous veteran durian wholesalers (AKA the boomers) and the “rebellious” younger generation. Well, it’s something we can definitely relate to.
The family plantation gets blacklisted for selling durian directly to buyers via live-streaming, which proves to be a double-edged sword — everything goes south faster than you can say “out with the old, in with the new”.
The bigger the crowd, the more melodramatic the scene, and that was one of the film’s biggest shortcomings. Everything was, to put it simply, way too chaotic.
However, there were also plenty of admittedly touching moments that reminded me of Neo’s older and more well-received works. The best part? I spotted only one obvious product placement. Well done!
Is The King of Musang King worth watching? Absolutely, if you’re seeking something new to do on a family day out (and have two and a half hours to spare).
And yes, I did find myself craving Mao Shan Wang (the fruit, not Jack Neo’s character) at the end.
The King of Musang King is now showing in cinemas islandwide.
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