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Homerun
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Megan Zhang and Shawn Lee in Homerun.
Year: 2003  
Director: Jack Neo  
  Producer: Titus Ho, Chan Pui-Yin, Daniel Yun
  Cast: Shawn Lee Chuang-Rui, Megan Zheng Zhi-Yun, Huang Wen-Yong, Xiang Yun, Joshua Ang, Ho Wen-Long, Huang Po-Ju, Zhang Xian-Bin, Ashley Leong Mun-Cheung, Xiao Li-Yuan, Jack Neo, Sharon Au, Richard Low, Mark Lee, Patricia Mok, Marcus Chin, Selena Tan, Emil Chow Wah-Kin (cameo)
  The Skinny: From the director I Not Stupid comes this winning tale of two siblings and their hard-knock life in 1960s Singapore. Although perhaps heavy-handed in terms of its politically commentary, the film never fails to charm its audience thanks to superb performances from its child actors. Newcomer Megan Zheng shines in a role that earned her a Golden Horse Award.
Review by Calvin McMillin:

     Jack Neo, director of 2002's smash hit I Not Stupid, returns to the director's chair for Homerun, a Singaporean remake of Madjid Majidi's Iranian film Children of Heaven. Neo's reinterpretation takes place in the mid-1960s just prior to Singapore's independence and revolves around the lives of two siblings: ten year old Chew Kiat Kun (Shawn Lee) and his little sister, Seow Fang (the wonderful Megan Zheng). The two of them live in an old kampong with their parents. With two school-aged kids and a baby on the way, their father tries his best to scrape by, working menial jobs to pay the bills. Although times are tough, life seems to be somewhat bearable, that is - until Ah Kun makes a costly mistake.
     While picking up groceries for his family, Ah Kun accidentally loses his sister's shoes. For more well-to-do families, such a turn of events would be little more than a momentary inconvenience, but for Ah Kun and Seow Fang, the situation is far more serious. Since their parents are struggling to make ends meet, the two decide that telling them the truth would only upset the already shaky balance maintained in the Chew household. Purchasing brand new shoes is totally out of the question, so what can these two poor kids do to remedy the situation?
     After several failed attempts to retrieve and/or replace the shoes, the two siblings stumble upon a solution: Seow Fang will wear Ah Kun's much-too-large shoes in the morning, and then sprint home so that he can wear them to school when he attends afternoon classes. Although the plan seems brilliant at first, it doesn't turn out as easy as they'd hoped. For one, Seow Fang's oversized shoes are a tad conspicuous, earning her ridicule from her peers and a scolding from her teacher. Even worse, Seow Fang's mad dash home proves to be more difficult than she expected, a fact that results in Ah Kun being late for school each and every day. Sadly, this perpetual tardiness earns him the ire of the school principal who metes out punishment on the poor boy on a daily basis. But fate smiles on the two kids when Ah Kun learns of a cross-country race in which the third place prize is a new pair of shoes. Determined to help his sister, Ah Kun enters the mini-marathon. But will he succeed?
     As someone unfamiliar with Children of Heaven, I can't comment on the specific differences between the two pictures. However, I can say that Homerun successfully transplants the Iranian-set story to an unmistakably period Singapore environment (although ironically, it was filmed in Kuala Lumpur). Besides setting the events in the kampong communities of Singapore's past, Neo also uses the contentious relationship between Ah Kun's circle of friends and a crew of rich kids (led by Joshua Ang) to highlight tensions between Singapore and Malaysia, a jab that was so obvious to government officials that the film was banned in Malaysia (which is not surprising; as great as I Not Stupid was, subtlety is not necessarily Jack Neo's forte). The film's explicit commentary on Singapore-Malaysia relations will probably come across as too heavy-handed for those familiar with the controversy, but international viewers blissfully unaware of the brouhaha between the two countries won't miss a thing. In fact, Homerun probably benefits from viewer ignorance because without that sense of political context the film gains a larger allegorical dimension, making it less a critique of a specific time or period (then or now) and more like a "universal" story that can be applied to just about any culture or era.
     The film boasts strong performances from its child actors, especially its two leads, Shawn Lee and Megan Zheng. The latter was the first Singaporean actress to take home a prize at the Golden Horse Awards, all at the tender age of ten years old. Her scenes, particularly one involving an unexpected confrontation with her teacher, provide ample evidence of her acting talents. If her performance in Homerun is any indication, Megan Zheng looks to be a definite star on the rise. But she's not the only child actor who performs well; it should be reported that even the young actors taking on supporting roles make worthy contributions, as the cast is filled with many returning I Not Stupid alumni as well as several bright new talents. The camaraderie amongst Ah Kun and his pals in good times and bad is wholly credible and serves the story well since the film often alternates between both serious and comic situations. The utter believability of the young actors helps the film make those transitions smoothly.
     Remake or not, Homerun is a touching, often amusing tale emphasizing the bonds of family and friendship. In exploring the love-hate relationship between siblings, Jack Neo crafts an effective metaphor for brotherhood on a larger scale - at the end of the day, no matter what our differences, are we not all brothers and sisters? And should we not look out for one another, especially in hard times? But even in broaching these large-scale questions, Homerun succeeds in delivering a relatively simple, intimate story that should prove moving for even the most jaded audience. (Calvin McMillin, 2005)

Awards: 40th Golden Horse Awards
• Winner - Best New Performer (Megan Zheng)
• Winner - Nomination - Best Original Song ("Owning")
 
Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin anc Cantonese Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
 

   
 
 
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