Ah Girls Go Army: Jack Neo loses the plot (again) with 5th military comedy

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Glenn Yong as Sergeant Chow and Apple Chan (centre) as Lieutenant Roxanne in Ah Girls Go Army. (Photo: mm2 Entertainment)
Glenn Yong as Sergeant Chow and Apple Chan (centre) as Lieutenant Roxanne in Ah Girls Go Army. (Photo: mm2 Entertainment)

Length: 120 minutes
Director: Jack Neo
Cast: Apple Chan, Glenn Yong, Yang Guang Ke Le, Belle Chua, Xixi Lim, Samantha Tan, Charlene Huang, Shirli Ling, Karyn Wong, Eswari, Veracia Yong, Yong Yu, Farah Farook, Vanessa Tiara, Chloe Goh
Language: Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles

In theatres from 1 February (Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei)

1 out of 5 stars

Ah Girls Go Army, the fifth instalment of the Ah Boys To Men series, shifts the spotlight to a group of female recruits who are conscripted into Singapore's military to serve National Service due to a lack of manpower.

With different backgrounds and education, these Gen Z teens train under the fierce leadership of Sergeant Chow (Glenn Yong) and Lieutenant Roxanne (Apple Chan). Together, they have to learn to overcome not only hardships, but also their differences.

From the open casting call to a series of character revelations to misnaming a trans actress’ character, Ah Girls Go Army has been making headlines for both good and bad reasons.

Despite the big hoo-ha and having an interesting concept to work with, the film, sadly, is nothing but a disappointment.

Spoilers ahead

To begin with, 10 minutes into the film, we already saw multiple blatant product placements that do not add value to the plot. They did not stop there either, and continued to appear every now and then like those irritating pop-up ads that you cannot skip.

Choosing between serving the needs of the sponsors versus the audience, director Jack Neo has essentially given up on the latter. But this is hardly news to those who follow Neo’s movies, which are known to be plastered with product placements.

What makes the film even more unbearable to watch is the lack of storyline and unsurprising characters. The incoherent plot, which loosely ties up several incidents that happen in the camp, shows no build-up to a climax, much less a climax itself.

It does not help that the film ends off abruptly, suggesting that there will be a second part.

The trailer is pretty much a summary of the gags in the film — most of which are not even funny and play on cringey gender stereotypes.

Yang Guang Ke Le as Princess See in Ah Girls Go Army. (Photo: mm2 Entertainment)
Yang Guang Ke Le as Princess See in Ah Girls Go Army. (Photo: mm2 Entertainment)

With a little too many characters, on one hand, it seems like the film cannot decide who to focus on as the story jumps among the characters. On the other hand, the characters, save for those with prominent characteristics, are hardly able to make an impression.

The female recruits also bear resemblance to the characters in Ah Boys To Men.

Princess See (Yang Guang Ke Le), like her name suggests, is akin to the rich and spoilt teenager Ken Chow (Joshua Tan); Joey Tay (Belle Chua) is similar to the heartbroken I.P. Man (Noah Yap) as both are dumped by their partners; Lau Lan Lan (Charlene Huang) is basically the female Lobang (Wang Weiliang) with the exact same antagonistic personality.

Unique characters like mother-of-one Yuan Yuan Yuan (Xixi Lim) and badass tomboy Amanda Ong (Kelly Kimberly Cheong) are, however, not fully utilised, making the film look like a parody of Ah Boys To Men.

I was particularly looking forward to watching Lim’s comedic performance, but her flat character gave her little to show her potential. Even her Me Too dance is funnier than her character in the film.

Xixi Lim as Yuan Yuan Yuan in Ah Girls Go Army. (Photo: mm2 Entertainment)
Xixi Lim as Yuan Yuan Yuan in Ah Girls Go Army. (Photo: mm2 Entertainment)

The possibly only interesting scene that Neo should include more of is when the girls have to complete an obstacle course blindfolded. It shows how necessary it is to overcome your own fears, and how such fears may jeopardise war missions. On top of physical drills, it is also important to train mentally.

Neo also added an intense suicide incident in the film, but it isn’t well developed. Although the life-or-death situation is nerve-racking and realistic, he could have gone a step further to explore the morality of taking one’s life. It would have given more meaning to the scene, rather than just turning it into a plot device for a sequel.

As someone who grew up watching Neo’s works, I had enjoyed his “J-style” entertainment. But lately, this has not been the case.

If you have extra money and 120 minutes of your life to waste away this Chinese New Year, Ah Girls Go Army is guaranteed to make you cringe at the bad jokes, roll your eyes at the incessant ads, and fume at the non-existent storyline and repetitive characters.

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