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Source:  http://www.bangkokpost.com/entertainment/movie/29087/mum-the-word-for-flat-gags

Mum's the word for flat gags

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Mum's the word for flat gags

Sequel of a hit Isan-speaking comedy is a sincere effort but ultimately thin on humour

  • Published: 11/12/2009 at 12:00 AM
  • Newspaper section: Realtime

Yaem Yasothorn 2

(Hello Yasothorn 2)

Starring Petchtai Wongkamlao, Harin Suthamjaras, Busarakam Wongkamlao, Janet Kiew. Directed by Petchtai Wongkamlao

Can Petchtai "Mum Jokmok" Wongkamlao be unfunny? Surprisingly, yes. So unfunny, actually.

Yaem Yasothorn 2 labours like a blocked writer on a pressing deadline, and for once Mum's stock gags, flat-faced tomfoolery and exaggerated cinematic nostalgia just can't hack it.

The original Yaem Yasothorn in 2005, more ticklish to begin with, arguably claimed the merit of being a movie that proudly flaunted its Isan pedigree, featuring Isan dialect and a cast of comedians hailing mostly from the region. In the sequel, such regional specificity and buffalo-backgrounded sentiment seems, at times, exploitative.

As before, Mum dyes his movie - this is the second film he has directed this year - with toothaching primary colours, supposedly to imitate Technicoloured Thai melodramas of yore, and perhaps to elicit automatic laughter when a rough-looking homosexual villager in shocking-pink flared pants and criminally cherry-coloured shirt appears and delivers a lewd joke about a threesome. Imitation creeps into mockery - as well as misunderstanding of cinema history. Mum's visual scheme, unlike the way, say, Wisit Sasanatieng paints his films in artificially bright colour as a homage artefact, grows to become an extraneous annoyance.

Mum also treats this film as a family outing. The joker-in-chief plays headman Yaem of a rice-farming village in Yasothorn, and the comedian's son and daughter also play Yaem's children in the film. The story is a simplified version of a typical old-style drama: Yaem spends a lot of time obstructing the budding romance between his daughter and a new district chief, a cocky strutter recently transferred from Bangkok. They're surrounded by a horde of good-humoured yet flimsy characters who exist merely to supply one-time gags, most of them recycled, predictable, or tedious.

Some praise the fact that Yaem Yasothorn is a film about Northeastern people. There's a measure of truth in it. But we've come so far from the day of Vichit Kunawut's Luk Isan (Son of the Northeast), and Mum's effort, even though I don't doubt his sincerity since he was a boy from Yasothorn himself, could stray into caricature and gaudy trivialisation. If not a shame then it's close to a waste of opportunity.

Perhaps Mum should slow down; his head may spin fast but making movies is a simmering process. The comedian was ridiculed for his ambition to become a movie director since he stepped up to helm The Bodyguard in 2004, yet he's proved that he knows the market and the audience better than MBA-wielding film producers. Nevertheless it's not smart - and certainly not necessary - to keep shoving more and more of the same gags down the viewers' throat, and to keep pushing himself like this.

Usually after a director finishes making a movie (or an author finishes a book), he'd feel like there's a hole in his body, and it'll take some time to fill it up. Mum keeps churning out films without pausing to fill up his hole. At this rate, he'll soon run the risk going empty.

Relate Search: Yaem Yasothorn 2, Starring Petchtai Wongkamlao, Harin Suthamjaras, Busarakam Wongkamlao, Janet Kiew. Directed by Petchtai Wongkamlao

About the author

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Writer: Kong Rithdee
Position: Reporter

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