Chinese Title: 皇宫灿烂
Language: Cantonese, Mandarin, Malay
Running Time: 95 minutes
Cast: Jack Lim, Gan Mei Yan, Vivian Tok, Jeff Chin, Royce Tan
Synopsis: “6,000 years ago, in the land where The Emperor was the sole ruler of a kingdom, lived many unhappy poor people who were bullied by the rich. In the Imperial Palace, lies a forbidden room, in which a previous concubine vanished many years ago. One day, a rebellious group attacks the palace and tries to overthrow the Emperor. Lord Turtle, the devoted Prime Minister protects the Emperor, Eunuch Tok and Yu-Fa by pushing them into the forbidden room. While shielding the enemies away, Lord Turtle stayed behind to guard the doors. The trio vanishes into the future… to year 2013. In this present era the Emperor and his 2 companions create many humorous scenes from their encounters with the modern technology. The trio also discovers their new gift, going through time – supernatural powers and immortality. Will The Emperor and his 2 companions survive in the new era? Will they ever be able to return home?” (Ram Entertainment).
Verdict: Sad to say that Jack Lim’s target of breaking his own record in revenues is unlikely to be achieved with this film. The humour’s poor, the story’s not tightly written, not emotionally engaging, many cliches, inaccurate Malaysian behaviour and worse of all, the obvious moral message’s not conveyed convincingly. The whole part where it’s supposed to show how difficult it is to be poor and yet still can be happy is not well executed ’cause the hardship of the protagonist cannot be felt and development of the minor characters is poor. In short, it’s downright boring. I can’t even say that it’s a decent family movie for Chinese New Year ’cause of its cheap dirty jokes. On the bright side, however, our disappointment with Once Upon A Time is a proof that Lim’s previous productions like Woohoo! (2010) and Great Day (2011) have upped the standards of local films and left us expecting better.
Second opinion: “It feels insincere; basically not as good as Jack Lim’s other movies; I wasn’t emotionally moved at all; the worst thing about the film is its many obvious scenes to show the brand and products of the sponsors” (Iris Loong).
Believe it or not… the stone age palace in the movie costs Jack Lim RM1 million! Never expect such a simple set would cost that much. It does look pretty good in the film though.
Gan Mei Yan: This MyFM DJ will definitely gain a larger following after this ’cause she’s charmingly pretty in the movie. She plays one of the two female companions of the Emperor (Jack Lim).
Rating: 1 / 5
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Major historical inaccuracies: In this movie, the stone age people of 6,000 years ago that live on this land (Malaysia) are Chinese who speak Cantonese, use gold as currency, have coloured clothing and girls wear camisoles. I don’t think girls back then really bothered about covering themselves like that, especially when they’re poor. The inaccurate portrayal of the Malaysian behaviour in present timeline makes it even harder for the local audience to relate to the situation.
Plot holes: At the end, it is revealed that the “mysterious man” in hooded cape is the kid who forms a close father and son-like relationship with the Emperor. The magical Rubic Cube causes the Emperor to travel to the future and meets the kid. If the kid’s the one who gives the Emperor the cube in the past then how did the Emperor travel to the future to meet him in the first place? And if the kid has already given the cube to the Emperor, why is there another one in his hand in the end? This is literally a loophole.
The only funny joke: [not precise] “You orang cina ah selalu fikir ayah saja. Selalu ‘aiya, aiya, aiya’. Kena fikir emak juga lah. Kita orang Melayu ada kata ‘alamak’, kita fikir pasal emak juga. Orang India pun jerit ‘ama’ bila kena pukul.”
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Special thanks to EricLeeh.com for the passes to the premiere.