Saturday, October 28, 2006

Review: Lucky Loser (Mak Tae)

  • Directed by Adisorn Tresirikasem
  • Starring Jakrit Panichpatikam, Noi Po-ngam
  • Released in Thai cinemas on October 19, 2006
  • Rating: 3/5
GMM-Tai-Hub would like you forget that its new football comedy, Lucky Loser (Mak Tae Loke Talueng), was pulled from release in May because Laotian diplomats thought the film about their national football team hiring a Thai coach might be offensive to Lao people.

Now, thanks to the magic of digital editing and ADR looping, Laos is no more. Thailand’s neighbor to the Northeast is called Arvee.

By a fluke, their national side is the lucky loser –- the wild-card draw in the World Cup regionals. The country is also home to the Miss Universe winner. It's even been given a stretch of coast on the South China Sea. It certainly has plenty to be proud of. Sharp-eyed viewers may notice, however, that any beachfront property shown in the film looks suspiciously like the Mekong.

In a message preceding the opening credits, GTH says it hopes the film will inspire all Southeast Asians to excel, and that one day, perhaps, a team from this part of the globe will play in the World Cup. And by the way, this film is entirely fictional.

Most of the laughs come in the scenes that feature an ambiguously effeminate (and Thai) team trainer, who flexes his muscles and flashes smiles at all the guys, making them feel just a little uncomfortable. Whenever one of the players has a cramp, the trainer is on top of things, bending legs backwards and massaging away. Is he gay? It doesn't matter. What matters is that he's the funniest thing in this movie, political correctness be damned.

Lucky Loser follows the formulaic pattern of any sports comedy. It could be from anywhere, about any sport.

The main protagonist is the coach, Pongnarin Ulice (Jakrit Panichpatikam), Thailand's greatest player and a star in England's Premier League. When there's an opening for a coach on the Thai side, he hangs up his cleats and comes home, hoping he'll be named. Instead, a Brazilian is chosen. (Teams hire foreign coaches all the time, right? So what if he’s from Brazil?)

This disappoints Pongnarin's fiesty, football-crazy, gambling-addicted Aunt Ming (Noi Po-ngam -- Thep Po-ngam's sister). She's just hit the lottery and was ready to donate millions to the Thai national side. But, since her nephew has been passed over for the coaching job, Ming decides she's going to support the Arvee team.

What follows are the typical scenes of the coach putting together a rag-tag team of losers and shaping them into a cohesive unit. He gets a guy who catches watermelons at the market to be the goalie. An aggressive dogcatcher becomes the attacking midfielder. Arvee's best player ever, banned for life because he can't control his temper, is coaxed out of his spiritual retreat in the jungle. And the hilltribesman who guided the coach on a trek is drafted as well, because he's got a kick that's out of this world. It's like something out of Shaolin Soccer.

The last guy to join is a star Thai player who's defected to the Arvee side because he says he believes they can win, but it's actually because he's a prima donna who thinks he can outshine the rest of the players. There's also the urban hipster, who plays basketball and says things like "yo" and "man". He convinces his teammates to dye their hair (including the armpits) blond. They train in a freezer to acclimatise.

In their first matches, they don't follow the game plan and, of course, they lose. Finally, they pay attention and start putting the coach's words into action, and they win. Yay!

Then, for their last game (against the Thais. Boo!), the Arveeians find their strategy isn't working, so they have to throw out the playbook and do whatever they can to win.

The comedy is, at least, coherent, something GTH seems to have a handle on, judging from this film and the earlier Metrosexual, though I didn't see their other comedy, See How They Run. Most of the time, Thai comedy films tend to not have much of a plot at all and mainly involve a bunch of gags strung together and a lot of running around and screaming. So, given all the hoo-hah this film caused earlier in the year with the Laotian government, it was refreshing to see that it had a story that could be followed.

Noi Po-ngam is fun to watch as the gambling crazed auntie and Michael "Iron Pussy" Shaowanasai pops up in the final scenes as the head referee. He plays it totally straight, though I think he was probably having a ball putting on the performance, showing the red card with a great flourish.

Some of the life is sucked out of the proceedings by moments of melodrama, with the coach wrestling with his feelings of loyalty to Thailand and his desire to win with his new team.

There's also a love triangle, with one of the Arvee star players falling for the new Miss Universe, who's from Arvee. This makes the team's pretty female chef (Praew Prapintip), who's a childhood sweetheart of the striker, jealous. It's a sappy subplot, but it produces one of the best lines, when the guy asks his sweetheart why she didn't answer her phone. "It's just a missed call," she says, "not Miss Universe."

Related posts:
(Cross-published at Rotten Tomatoes)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please, no questions or comments about where to download movies or subtitle files.

Please read the FAQ about Thai films on DVD before asking about where to find a Thai movie on DVD with English subtitles.

Make your comments pertinent to the post you are commenting on. For off-topic comments, general observations or news tips, consider sending an e-mail to me at wisekwai [ a t ] g m a i l [d o t ] c o m.

All comments are moderated. Spam comments will be deleted.