Undoubtedly The Best Malay Movie Ever Made

In January I promised I’d take Irfan this month to watch Geng: Pergembaraan Bermula (The Gang: The Adventure Begins), a new computer animated, feature-length movie which also features the hyperactive preschooling twins Upin and Ipin from their eponymous computer generated TV series on TV9.

Little did I know that I was about to behold THE best Malay movie I’ve had the pleasure of seeing in my years of being sort-of alive in this particular corner of the multiverse.

The overall story was great. The little character moments were great. I laughed dozens of times throughout. And every technical aspect of the filmmaking is leaps and bounds better than 99 percent of any other Malay movie ever made.

[[image:gengthemovie1.jpg:The dramatis personae on Sapy’s bullock cart. Sapy! GO!!!!!!:center:0]]

The story begins with teenaged friends from the city, Badrol and Lim, who returns to Badrol’s kampung to visit his grandfather during durian season. His grandfather Tok Dalang has a durian orchard, which is among those at the kampung being “haunted by the Hantu Durian (Durian Demon” who snatches away the fallen fruits before anyone gets a chance to collect them. At the kampung, they meet a collection of colourful characters including Upin and Ipin, their older sister Ros, and the local cowherd kid Rajoo who has the superhuman ability to talk to animals. Though his favourite cow Sapy does this at his own discretion.

But during an excursion to the orchard, which causes them to be lost deep in the jungle with an ally that might or might not be the Durian Demon, their Scooby-Doo adventure truly begins. Growing up in Sitiawan, this story is everything I wanted for an adventure as a teenager there. (Sitiawan today is a totally different creature from before, but that’s for another discussion.)

[[image:gengthemovie2.jpg:Mas y Menos! Si podemos!:center:0]]

On a technical standpoint, everything about this movie is outstandingly crafted. It is well storyboarded; the action sequences are nail-biting and intense. The cinematography is beautiful, and shot with enough cuts and inserts to make the story flow well visually – as opposed to many live action movies which have locked-off cameras that barely move. The character (and creature) designs are also impressive. And you can easily believe they are in the jungle, with shots of the local flora and fauna.

The voice actors did their jobs perfectly, to the point where I don’t really think about the actors. Live action Malay movies, on the other hand, have very bad ADR quality which regularly snaps me out of suspension of disbelief – which isn’t easy since all they have to do in the live action scene is make me believe that two people are talking to each other.

Music and sound design – everything was well done. I like the part where the filmmakers feint with the stereotypical “suddenly everyone bursts out in a song and dance number” in the middle of the movie.

If you know my usual opinion on the matter, you’d know that this review is akin to hell freezing over. Yes, this is an outstanding movie. It’s an outstanding animated adventure, comedy, fantasy Malay movie with quite a good amount of heart. No other local movie comes close. In fact, I wouldn’t sully Geng: Pergembaraan Bermula by mentioning them in the same breath with those other movies. You know the type. I wouldn’t even sully this blog by mentioning their filthy titles.

Let’s hope that this heralds a new age of Malay movies that are made to show quality and not just to make a quick buck.

Posted in Movie Review and tagged .

Khairul Hisham J. is a tabletop RPG artist, writer, proofreader, translator, teacher, grad student and learner-in-general.

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