Monday, August 1, 2011

Review: Mai Ka Mum Don Ka Don

  • Directed by Petchtai Wongkumlao
  • Starring Mai Charoenpura, Petchtai Wongkumlao, Choosak Iamsuk, Pongsak Pongsuwan
  • Released in Thai cinemas June 23, 2011; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

Drama queen Mai Charoenpura is upstaged by a drag queen in Mai Ka Mum Don Ka Don (หนัง ใหม่กะหม่ำ และ โดนกะโดน).

This romantic comedy, directed by and also starring Petchtai “Mum Jokmok” Wongkumlao, is touted as Mai's first comedy, even though the veteran singer-actress had a great comic turn as a pickpocketing hooker in last year's horror-shorts anthology Tai Hong, a.k.a. Die a Violent Death.

In Mai Ka Mum she portrays a thirtysomething modeling agency's stylist who is terminally unlucky in love. And she's not actually that funny, except for the opening scene in which she's puking into a toilet at a nightclub. Meanwhile, other women are going through their bathroom routines, shown in painfully scatalogic graphic detail. Good thing the movie isn't in Smell-O-Vision.

Mai has gone to the nightclub to drown her sorrows after dumping her latest boyfriend, whom she caught cheating on her. As she does every time she has a break-up and gets drunk, she calls Mum, her best friend since the two were in elementary school. Mum brings Mai back to his place so she can sleep it off, and this makes Mum's wife Kaprow extremely jealous.

She's played by comedian "Nong" Choosak Iamsuk. Again, as he demonstrated in movies like Pattaya Maniac and last year's Saturday Killer, give Nong a meaty role and he'll run with it. Dressed in a flowing, floral-print nightgown and immaculately made up, Nong puts everything he's got into playing the shrill, henpecking spouse of Mum.

But later it's Mum who gets jealous when he sees Kaprow chatting intimately with a man in the beauty parlor she runs with other transsexuals. He also thinks he sees Kaprow kissing the guy and giving him oral sex. But it's all a big mistake. The guy, Khosan (played by Mum's and Nong's frequent comedy partner "Teng" Pongsak Pongsuwan), is actually asking Kaprow's advice about getting a sex change.

Mum doesn't realize his error though, and he goes off the deep end, getting drunk in a nightclub, and then calling his friend Mai to come pick him up. Mai takes Mum back to her place and the pair have sex, after which Mai turns up pregnant and Mum makes the decision to leave Kaprow and marry Mai, even if Mai isn't sure the baby is Mum's.

Kaprow, devastated that her husband has left her, embarks on a series of black-comic suicide attempts.

It's a weird, sexuality-ambiguous fantasy world that Mum has constructed for Mai Ka Mum. Like the Muppets in which Kermit the Frog and can marry Miss Piggy and no one bats an eye, nobody makes a big deal out of Mum having married a woman who is an obvious transsexual.

The prolific director Mum pads out this otherwise-routine romantic comedy with digressions, like his character's job as a tour guide, who ironically can only give tours to Thais because he can't speak English.

As usual for a Mum movie, there are plenty of appearances by his comedy colleagues. Thai-speaking Ghanian comedian Johnson "Joey Chernyim" Amidou is a tourist who helps Mum guide a bunch of Westerners in a Bangkok market. Kom Chuanchuen is a friend Mum meets in a hospital. Chuanchuen family patriarch Udom is Mai's father. And Janet Khiew turns up in a cameo that references Mum's Yam Yasothon movies.

But probably the biggest scene stealer is the secretary at the modelling agency. She's played by a sharp-featured "eel face" actress from the long-running commercial for the Thai diet coffee brand Nature's Gift, in which an office worker sashays like a model to the water cooler and distracts all the men. And that's just how she walks around the office in Mai Ka Mum, and gets the biggest laughs of anyone else in the movie.

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