Review: 'Young and Fabulous (最佳伙扮)' has good intentions but poor execution

Violet (Joyce Chu), Haoren (Joshua Tan), and Royston (Aloysius Pang) in “Young and Fabulous (最佳伙扮)”. (Encore Films)

Marcus Goh is a Singapore television scriptwriter. He’s also a Transformers enthusiast and avid pop culture scholar. He Tweets/Instagrams at Optimarcus and writes at marcusgohmarcusgoh.com. The views expressed are his own.

Score: 2.0/5

Secret ending? No, but there are some special features in the credits.

Running time: 107 minutes (~1.75 hours)

“Young and Fabulous (最佳伙扮)” is a Singaporean dramedy about a group of young students who want to be cosplayers. However, with opposition from their friends and family, fulfilling their dreams looks like a Herculean task. It stars Aloysius Pang (Royston Chio), Joyce Chu (Violet Ong), Joshua Tan (Hao Ren), Gurmit Singh (Mr Boo), Quan Yi Fong (Liu Mei Feng), Henry Thia (Hao Lian), Jeffrey Xu (Chen Jun), Jordan Ng (Jordan Chio), with appearances by Bernard Tan, Constance Song, and Benjamin Kheng. It is rated PG.

“Young and Fabulous (最佳伙扮)” is a timely attempt at depicting the pop culture scene in Singapore, although it features mainly Asian pop culture. While it’s a laudable effort to cast a spotlight on this aspect of Singaporean culture, it lacks authenticity in its approach to the topic, and tries to make up for this by tossing in other genres to fill the gaps. It’s Singaporean, but in a rather rojak sense of the word.

Quan Yi Fong plays nosy mother Liu Mei Feng in “Young and Fabulous (最佳伙扮)”. (Encore Films)

Highlights

Aloysius Pang plays a nerdy but endearing protagonist

Although he comes across awkward at first (thanks to a rather strange dream sequence in the opening), Royston (Aloysius Pang) quickly gains your sympathy and becomes the altruistic, well-meaning protagonist that you want to root for in the film. There’s a discernible progression in the growth of his social skills, allowing you to see the character develop both as a person and a designer. Aloysius Pang’s performance imbues the geeky top student with sincerity and charm, giving likeability to a character that was written as a bag of stereotypes.

Mr Boo (Gurmit Singh) gets wet in “Young and Fabulous (最佳伙扮)”. (Encore Films)

Letdowns

Lack of familiarity with the subject matter

As much as the film is about otakus, there’s a distinct hollowness to the treatment of the topic. It’s as if the writer and producers aren’t familiar with the elements of Asian pop culture or similar otaku movies, and the inability to reference real anime characters (possibly for copyright reasons, but surely mentioning it by name wouldn’t have posed severe problems) serves to dampen this element of the film. It’s either lip service or extreme exaggeration, and rarely treads the middle ground. The set design does show some knowledge of the topic, but otherwise it’s disappointing to see how the subject matter has been handled.

Too many styles and elements mixed together

The film feels like Iike portions of “I Not Stupid,” a teen idol drama, and an otaku movie mixed together in film that jumps from genre to genre haphazardly. Instead of a consistent blend of several genres, it ends up looking like the product of four or five directors put together. This lack of focus in the film makes it difficult to feel for the story, because just as you’re easing into the tropes and elements of one genre, it leaps into a different style in the next scene.

Irksome supporting characters

Royston’s brother, Jordan (Jordan Ng) is a shrill brat that elicits no sympathy from you. He functions more as a plot device than an actual character, and his high-pitched whining gets on your nerves after awhile. Violet (Joyche Chu) the love interest is little better, dropping horribly trite English phrases that are meant to be cool and hip but end up sounding like a senior citizen failing to ape teenage lingo, while acting cute and bratty. It’s a combination of poor writing and awkward performances that lead to such irritating characters.

Conflicting messages

“Young and Fabulous (最佳伙扮)” takes great pains to emphasise that cosplayers come in all shapes and sizes, and aren’t limited to the cliched nerds that people think, even pointing out that cosplayers can be from professions as diverse as lawyers as engineers. Yet the main character conforms to every stereotype of a cosplayer (being a socially awkward geek)! It like two different people wrote the film.

Chen Jun (Jeffrey Xu) joins Royston, Haoren, and Violet in “Young and Fabulous (最佳伙扮)”. (Encore Films)

“Young and Fabulous (最佳伙扮)” is the result of good intentions that are poorly executed.

Should you watch this if it’s free? Yes.

Should you watch this at weekday movie ticket prices? No.

“Young and Fabulous (最佳伙扮)” opens in cinemas 26 May, 2016 (Thursday).