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McDull: The Pork of Music
McDull: The Pork of Music

McDull and the gang get a music education in McDull: The Pork of Music.
Chinese: 麥兜˙噹噹伴我心
Year: 2012  
Director: Brian Tse  
Producer: Brian Tse
Writer: Brian Tse, Alice Mak
Voices: Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei, Zhang Zhengzhong, The Pancakes
The Skinny: Pork of Music falls a step below the absolute best of the McDull movies but it's still quality stuff that conveys Hong Kong life better than 95% of all live-action films. The esoteric nature of these films may be impenetrable or alienating to some, but fans of McDull should absolutely enjoy Pork.
by Kozo:

A new McDull movie is always welcome, though there are debits to McDull: The Pork of Music that make it a lesser entry in the series. The premise remains the same: McDull (voiced by Zhang Zhengzhong) is a dopey piglet who lives in Tai Kok Tsui with his pragmatic mom Mrs. Mak (voiced by Sandra Ng), and the filmmakers use this “everypig” to observe and satirize facets of Hong Kong life and culture. Some facets are enduring (Hong Kong-style cafes, preoccupation with bodily waste, the resilience of the lower class), some are new (skyrocketing property values, the current recession, local media figures). Some things, like Andy Lau, are everlasting. Pork of Music picks up in media res with McDull and his classmates (Fai, Goosie, May, Darby, name them all!) performing onstage at an Andy Lau (called “Perfect Andy” in the subs) concert, their little voices celebrating what must be the film’s third act triumph.

Nope. While the kids do perform with Perfect Andy late in the film, it’s not their final triumph. First, the plot: Springfield Children’s Kindergarten is low on money, and the Principal (voiced by Anthony Wong) is looking for new funding. An alumni benefit fails (past students have graduated to glorious professions like butcher and debt collector) but the graduates turn out to be fine singers - and even the current students have great pipes, all thanks to the Principal’s love of music and his lifelong coaching. Soon the kids are taking singing jobs to up the kindergarten cash flow, with a skeevy producer (voiced by Ronald Cheng) getting them their biggest gigs. What follows is more Hong Kong satire (some aimed at the music industry), plus a denouement that’s as prosaic as it is affecting. Pork of Music’s narrative doesn’t break the mold; the story leans heavily towards that familiar “inspirational music teacher” subgenre, and the emotions elicited are expected.

This time out, the Principal appears to be the protagonist. He's seen everywhere in Hong Kong – hawking snacks, working security, teaching children – but he’s not an everyman metaphor for all Hong Kongers as in previous McDull movies. Here, he’s just a guy working multiple jobs to keep the kindergarten open, and his devotion comes off as sad but also inspiring. With the notable exception of McDull’s crew, the character designs diverge from previous films. New cast member designs by local artist Yeung Hok-Tak are stylized and also a bit ugly. It makes for a jarring change, and the short animation cycles given to the newer characters make the animation appear cheap. Also, children may not find the gray and green-skinned characters appealing; the art sometimes makes McDull’s world appear overrun by the sick and the undead. But there is a strong thematic reason for the designs (i.e., adulthood is not necessarily attractive), and even if kids don’t get the message, it should be understandable to their adult chaperones.

Despite their origin as illustrated children’s books, the McDull films have never been just for kids. The cuddly character designs – that is, Alice Mak’s original designs for McDull and company – appeal to a younger set but the themes and emotions are really for adults. One of the McDull films’ hallmarks is the bittersweet celebration of ordinary life - e.g., the sad acknowledgement of failed dreams and adult compromises – and Pork of Music follows suit. That’s not a message that will make kids happy. Adults may not be tickled with such downbeat themes either, especially if they’re used to Hollywood films where protagonists are talented and special winners. But McDull is a winner too - not because he actually wins, but because he stays positive, cares for those around him and ultimately lives an unselfish, modest life. That hackneyed message is difficult to believe, but the McDull films convey it unerringly. McDull’s life is lower class, unglamorous and even desperate, but these films convince that such a life is special.

There’s a bit of “been there, done that” to Pork of Music, but the journey is worthwhile enough that it doesn’t matter that the destination is familiar. McDull films are enjoyable if you understand the references and are partial to the emotions, and they’re useful for learning about Hong Kong too. What they’re not is pandering or universal enough to easily win over international audiences. Pork of Music’s style and content is likely too esoteric for non-Hong Kongers, from the local references to the abstruse humor to the slow-witted, sometimes oddball cuteness. McDull films require a leap from the audience, and taking it is rewarding. Pork of Music is another dense, entertaining and ultimately poignant slice of family (well, not really) entertainment that should easily please McDull fans. Non-fans? Well, maybe nothing that McDull does – short of being animated by Pixar – will win them over. Kung Fu Panda is likely more their speed. (Kozo, 2012)


DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Panorama (HK)
2-DVD Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles

Music Videos, various extras
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

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