may be dead, but its spirit lives on in Forever Fever,
a crowd-pleasing dance flick from then-first-time director
Glen Goei. The film contains a deft mix of comedy, romance,
and drama, which results in a thoroughly charming homage
to Saturday Night Fever, John Travolta, and even
the late, great Bruce Lee. Although steeped in references
to the 1977 disco classic, the movie avoids rip-off
status thanks to ample doses of heart, humor, and originalitynot
to mention an unmistakably Singaporean touch.
Set during the late seventies,
the film follows the life of Hock (Adrian Pang), a down-on-his-luck
grocery store employee who longs for nothing more than
a brand new Triumph motorcycle (a detail revealed in
a rather amusing Easy Rider parody no less).
A rabid Bruce Lee fan, Hock decides to go to the theatre
to catch a return showing of Fist of Fury.
his total horror, the film has been replaced with Forever
Fever (a more copyright-friendly substitution for Saturday Night Fever). Although bored by the
"hospital movie" at first, Hock soon finds himself entranced
by the smooth dance moves of John Travolta's character.
As fate would have it, a popular discothèque is holding
a dance competition with a prize of five-thousand dollars,
more than enough to pay for Hock's prized motorcycle.
There's only one problem: Hock can't dance.
Enlisting the help of
his childhood friend Mei (Medaline Tan), Hock immediately
signs up for dance lessons at the local dance studio.
Although Bruce Lee had once served as Hock's primary
spiritual advisor, soon John Travolta himself (well,
actor Dominic Pace doing a half-assed Travolta impression)
steps off the screen to give Hock advice about life,
love, and that groovy disco style.
Unfortunately, the totally
oblivious Hock fails to recognize that Mei's feelings
for him are no longer completely platonic. In a plot
point pulled straight out of Saturday Night Fever,
Hock drops Mei in favor of Julie (Anna Belle Francis),
the sultry girl in his dance class who just happens
to be dating the film's primary antagonist. But no worries,
this is a disco-themed movie after all, and (almost)
everything gets resolved after the big dance-off.
As silly as its plot may
sound in print, Forever Fever is an unexpectedly
solid comedy with heavy dramatic leanings. Thanks to
some fine performances from its cast, the film never
deteriorates into just another rote imitation of Saturday
Night Fever, even when it lifts scenes verbatim
from its more famous predecessor.
Adrian Pang brings a relaxed
naturalism to the role of Hock, a quality that only
increases the authenticity of his portrayal. He isn't
a zany protagonist, but very much a "regular guy" with
real feelings, who has his moments of wit and wackiness
just as all regular people do. The remaining characters
are just as engaging, with Hock's siblings being probably
the most memorable. Pam Oei gets plenty of laughs as
Hock's sister Mui, a girl who reads nothing but trashy
romance novels which result in her asking Hock questions
like "What does it mean his member stiffened?"
In probably one of the
more challenging supporting roles, Caleb Goh acquits
himself well as Leslie, Hock's med student brother.
It's easy to see how Leslie could have deteriorated
into just another stock villain: the arrogant know-it-all
son, beloved by his parents at the hero's expense. But
writer/director Glen Goei imbues Forever Fever with more depth than its fluffy subject matter would
lead one to believe, giving Leslie not only a more rounded
character, but also a surprising secret that propels
the last quarter of the film.
Despite the more "showy"
aspects of the role, Goh very much seems like someone's
younger brother rather than a performer, a quality that
only enhances the character's mid-film revelation and
his problematic transformation by story's end. This
twist is handled well, and in keeping with the more
realistic tone of the film's dramatic parts, not everything
is resolved by story's end.
But don't let this protracted
discussion of the film's dramatic aspects fool you.
For all intents and purposes, Forever Fever is a lighthearted film that celebrates the more memorable
moments from that John Travolta classic. Thankfully,
the film has just enough original ideas to allow it
to stand on its own. If you're looking for a fun dance
movie without too much fluff, Forever Fever is the film to see. And hey, it's ten times better than Staying Alive. (Calvin McMillin, 2004)