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Chinese language cinema

Film review: McDull – Rise of the Rice Cooker is a monster parody no one asked for

Like a skit that outlasts its welcome, the seventh film featuring Hong Kong’s favourite cartoon piglet substitutes crude titillation for meaningful observations about city life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 September, 2016, 6:02pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 September, 2016, 11:36am

2 stars

There was a time when to dismiss McDull as just another cutesy cartoon would have been seen as ignorant. Not any more. Once a voice for witty, provocative commentaries on the more absurd aspects of Hong Kong life, since 2009’s McDull Kung Fu Ding Ding Dong , its first outing in China, the city’s favourite piglet has regularly preferred homogenised gags over the culturally specific humour it was known for.

While the two previous McDull features, the musical comedy The Pork of Music (2012) and the family melodrama Me & My Mum (2014) were set in Hong Kong, there’s an unshakable impression among long-time followers that the franchise has been missing the satirical edge of its first two films, the high-concept and far-more-episodic My Life as McDull (2001) and McDull, Prince de la Bun (2004).

Hong Kong cartoon character McDull packs mainland cinemas

The same goes for McDull – Rise of the Rice Cooker, which sees a grotesque monster arrive from outer space. Humans are proving defenceless; after an Ultraman-like superhero, Spamerman, also flunks his rescue mission, the safety of the planet is left in the hands of McDull, the kindergarten kid who, with his sheer passion for science, invents a formidable robot based on designs of home appliances.

Ostensibly a colourful parody of the Japanese sci-fi movie tradition of kaiju (monsters), superheroes and giant robots, Rise of the Rice Cooker – again written, directed and produced by McDull co-creator Brian Tse Lap-man – has seemingly taken a fantasy from McDull’s many daydreams and stretched it out to feature length.

For some viewers, this underdog story may play like a skit that pointedly outlasts its welcome. While the best McDull stories sugar-coat their grown-up insights with sometimes surreal, often bittersweet irony, Rise of the Rice Cooker merely titillates through such gags as a cross-dressing McDull, a confused joke about Li Ka-shing doing voluntary slave labour, and a parade of toilet humour.

McDull – Rise of the Rice Cooker opens on September 15

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