Monday, November 19, 2012

Review: Soob Ku Kuu Lok

  • Directed by Naruebadee Vejjakam
  • Starring Petchtai Wongkumlao, Nakorn Silichai
  • Released in Thai cinemas on November 8, 2012; rated 15+
  • Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5

Although it's marketed as a special-effects-driven sci-fi comedy, flying saucers and space aliens make up probably less than half of the half-baked movie Soob Kuu Ku Lok.

Most of Soob Kuu involves comedians Petchtai "Mum" Wongkumlao and Nakorn "Ple" Silichai riffing on homophobic jokes. They are a pair of biker dudes who run a custom chopper shop in a sleepy fishing community in Chanthaburi.

The film is a new venture for the comedian Ple, who after many years has split from his old Saranae comedy troupe, which has made several movies but is mainly known for its TV series that pulls elaborate pranks on celebrities. The remaining two of the Saranae trio, Willy McIntosh and the dreadlocked Kiattisak “Sena Hoi” Udomnak, went their own way with the recent Saranae Osekkai, a feature-film spoof of Japanese pop culture. Willy and Sena Hoi also packed up their Lucks 666 production shingle and moved it to the new studio M-Thirtynine after their previous films had been released by Sahamongkol.

Sticking with Ple is director Naruebadee Vejjakam, who helmed the first three Saranae movies. He follows a similar template to the last two Saranair films, with a very loosely scripted approach that allows for gag after gag by the comedians, irregardless of whether the jokes are actually funny or have anything at all to do with advancing the plot.

Soob Ku Kuu Lok starts out amusingly enough with Mum and Ple as motorcycle-taxi drivers, each with a schoolchild on their bike. They race through the streets to be the first to their destination, scaring their passengers out of their wits. Of course, things are not what they seem – Ple's passenger in a Boy Scout uniform is actually a dwarf, and he turns abusive when the wild ride comes to an end.

Eed (Ple) and George (Mum) dream of riding their choppers on the open road. However, they are heavily indebted, thanks to Eed's gambling, lottery playing and fruitless get-rich-quick schemes. At one point, they think about robbing a 7-Eleven, which is just one of the jokes that goes on for too long.

There are always some mobsters hanging around, threatening them.

Still, there's plenty of time of idle chatter by Eed and George, who make jokes about gays even as they take a bath together and Eed enthusiatically grabs for the "soap". Tiresome as their nattering on becomes, the sexual ambiguity at least keeps people guessing. Or, with Ple's ridiculous fake facial hair, the guessing might have more to do about when the false moustache is going to fall off.

Eventually, the actual story starts to take shape – of George's live-in nephew Pong (Phoom Rangsrithananon) acting strangely. They think he might be on drugs, but Pong is actually a little grey space alien with a bald head and huge eyes, pretty much like the being Seth Rogen voiced in the sci-fi spoof Paul starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Unfortunately, Soob Ku Kuu Lok is nowhere near as funny or smart as Paul.

The alien's mission on Earth is mysterious – something to do with the "black Buddha" that's gone missing from a local temple. Using various stolen electronics and other spare parts, he's built a communications array in his room in an effort to "phone home".

When the alien nephew's powers are revealed, he actually helps George and Eed earn some much-needed money in a motorcycle race, only to let them lose the stack of cash in a night of boozing.

There's also a romantic interest for the alien kid, with a pretty local schoolgirl (Arpa Pawilai) wooing him.

Meanwhile, the community's suspicions about who stole the black Buddha start to zero in on George and Eed, and soon they are pursued by the mobsters, the cops and other townspeople.

Various well-known actors join in the fun. Monrak Transistor and Tears of the Black Tiger star Supakorn Kitsuwon is a friendly cop. Bad-boy actor Peter Thongchua is the tough gangster George and Eed owe money to. And musician-actor "Kong" Saharat Sangapreecha turns up for seemingly no apparent reason other than to be there and serve as a good-natured foil for Mum and Ple.

The special-effects, when they are actually used, are convincing enough. The little grey alien being interacts seamlessly with his live-action counterparts, and CGI sequences involving the huge lighted flying saucers are generally breathtaking. But it's all too little, too late

An ending-credits gag reel has Mum getting revenge for being pranked by Ple in the first Saranae film.

Soob Ku Kuu Lok actually has an international English title, tentatively How They Saved the World! (English-subbed trailer embedded below), but given the preponderance of below-the-belt Thai-style shenanigans over actual sci-fi wackiness, I'm uncertain whether the film will attract much interest in foreign markets.

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