Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Review: Ha Zard

  • Directed by Pornchai Hongrattanaporn
  • Starring Kom Chuanchuen, Charlie Trairat, Thanachart Tulyachat, Boribun Chanruen, Pimchanok Ponlaboon, Inthipon Thamsukin, Kirk Schiller
  • Released in Thai cinemas on April 7, 2011; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

One trademark of Pornchai "Mr. Pink" Hongrattanaporn's movies is a colorful, action-filled opening-titles sequence in which the names of the cast and crew are incorporated into various objects as the characters run frantically to start the story off.

In the Bangkok Loco director's latest comedy Ha Zard (ฮาศาสตร์), the conceit is kept up for a laugh-filled 20 minutes or so as a parade of characters and guest stars are introduced. The tale is set at a fairyland-like comedy university, where the students dress in blindingly colorful uniforms and the faculty are all of Thailand's top comedians.

The headmaster, the ubiquitious Kom Chuanchuen, dresses like Bozo the Clown, only he's grouchier. So maybe he's more like Krusty the Clown.

The students include young actors Charlie Trairat from Fan Chan and the new Boonchu boy Thanachart Tulyachat, along with Boribun Chanruen (who for some reason dresses as a panda), frizzy-haired actress Pimchanok Ponlaboon and newcomer starlet Inthipon Thamsukin.

The teachers school the kids in the use of slapstick head-bashing props, outlandish costumes, goofy dances and cross-dressing. The parade of well-known comedians includes Jaturong Mokjok, Jazz Chuanchuen and Joey Chernyim (as an African witch doctor). The Thai pantomime trio Babymime has a cute cameo appearance as teachers of physical comedy. There's even a funny monk to tell humorous Buddhist parables.

It's a time of crisis, with Thais tired of the comedians and their same old schtick. At the school, the top comics are being killed off. And the ultimate goal by the cross-dressing villain(ess) (Kirk Schiller) is to transform Ha Zard University into Handsome University to train the next generation of South Korean-style boybands.

So it's up to the five young students to save the school and the institution of Thai comedy itself. They are pitted in a sort of showbiz olympics against a bunch of boyband stars. All the singers have to do is strut around and the crowds go wild. They don't sing a note. The young comedians have to work harder. They even put on an old-fashioned likay (folk opera), but the teenybopper crowds are uninterested. Maybe the comic kids are working too hard, as their jokes fall flat, their antics become belabored and fail to rise above the gags that are presented nightly on Thai TV variety shows. But somehow they save the day anyway.

The underlying commentary, is, I suppose, that the Thai cultural fascination with boybands is somehow "unThai" and completely ridiculous, while dressing up in black face to portray a policeman in order to save a suicidal man is perfectly okay.

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