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McDull, Prince de la Bun
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(left) The Prince de la Bun and his Pizza-headed buddy, and (right) the Prince and his would-be wife.
Chinese: 麥兜.菠蘿油王子
Year: 2004  
Director: Toe Yuen Kin-To  
Voices: Sandra Ng Kwun-Yu, Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Jan Lam Hoi-Fung, Andy Lau Tak-Wah
The Skinny: It doesn't make much sense, but this animated love letter to Hong Kong and its people features enough soaring emotion to make it a worthy recommendation. Not for casual audiences, or those looking for The Incredibles. But if you love Hong Kong, you should find something to love in McDull, Prince de la Bun.
by Kozo:

What's not to love about McDull? He's young, has a healthy imagination, and is a cuddly pig with probably the IQ of a turnip. He also has one hell of a mother, who raised him alone and is so loving that she can even make a trip to the Peak seem like a plane ride to the Maldives. McDull was also the star of My Life as McDull, a winning 2001 animated film that was supposed to be for kids, but played pretty well to adults too. The metaphor-heavy lesson of that film: try harder, make do with what you got, and live life in Hong Kong to the best of your ability—and within the limits of your class and/or tax bracket.

McDull returns in McDull, Prince de la Bun, but this time the tykes may get left in the cold. This sequel again features heavy metaphorical implications on urban life in Hong Kong. It's also much more episodic, and ultimately makes far less sense than My Life as McDull ever did. The lack of overall logic is probably a boon for the kiddies, since logic has never been a heavy selling point for anything that truly appeals to them (Teletubbies, anyone?). However, the bittersweet emotions and Hong Kong-specific flavor of Prince de la Bun would seem to make this film much more skewed to adults than the original McDull. What's more, the emotions work spectacularly. Prince de la Bun may not make much sense, but anyone with a feeling for life in Hong Kong should find something to like here.

When the picture opens, McDull is stuck in school learning the ins and outs of modern urban life (how to order food, negotiate with neighbors, and get along blithely in today's Hong Kong). Meanwhile, Hong Kong is undergoing urban renewal, meaning buildings are being torn down while McDull and his classmates are getting taught the cha-cha by their mustached principal (voiced by Anthony Wong). The principal's likeness is also used for at least two waiters, a clueless doctor, and various other local characters. The meaning behind this: the principal is not a guy, but a type, and the world of McDull is a thinly disguised metaphor for the times in which we live. Viva existentialism!

Enter McDull's mother (voiced by Sandra Ng), who's busy getting ready for her demise by leasing a fab new burial plot. The visit to the site of her future grave is an event which sends McDull into sobs, and Mom tries to cheer up her porky kid by telling him a fairy tale about the "Prince de la Bun", a dimwitted pig who looks suspiciously like McDull, but clearly is not. For one thing, the Prince grows to adulthood, where he takes on the voice of Andy Lau. For another thing, the Prince is clearly someone else: McDull's dad, who was suspiciously absent in the original McDull.

Lo and behold, Mom's tale—which she muses could be turned into a novel and sold for big bucks ala Harry Potter—is really a metaphor for the disappearance of McDull's dad. Basically, he's a prince who realizes at the final moment that he should reclaim his crown, so he runs off and abandons all that we ordinary folk hold dear: job, family, and an ordinary life. It's a tale of an everyman's mid-life crisis, and of the widely held notion that we're all special people. Our belief in our own greatness is but a delusion of grandeur, and as we face our mediocre futures, we also attempt to grasp our [self-imagined] glorious pasts. To read between Prince de la Bun's lines, we're not all special; we just think we are. But if we managed to father an imaginative little tyke like McDull, it can't all be bad, can it?

To be blunt, who the Hell knows? The story of McDull, Prince de la Bun seems pretty straightforward, but the way in which its told could leave even the most loose cinema reader scratching their noggin. The whole doesn't make much sense; one could view the fanciful story of the Prince de la Bun as a Hong Kong working-class Don Quixote, complete with a pizza-headed Sancho Panza and a spear-carrying retainer—who, oddly enough, also looks like McDull's Principal and is also voiced by Anthony Wong. Or, one could just see the film in its most obvious interpretation: the story of a little tyke and the stories that his mom tells him. Or, one could view the whole film as a random pastiche of barely connected references to Hong Kong and the perils of modern living. Meanwhile, a large robot is trying to destroy Hong Kong in the name of urban renewal, and McDull can't solve his possibly genetic leg-shaking problem. But hey, hopefully his leg-shaking problem can be the key to a grand, promising future—or so Mom hopes. Is anyone getting this?

Probably not, but if you're looking for coherent animation, go watch a Disney movie. McDull, Prince de la Bun is not a Disney movie, nor does it try to be. This tale of a little pig actually has some pretty lofty messages hidden beneath its disconnected, four-color exterior, and oddly works! Director Toe Yuen manages to use sound and image to create soaring moments of sublime, innately familiar emotion, and though the effect is ultimately questionable, there is a real sense of feeling beneath the barely-coherent world of McDull. Hong Kong is rendered in an astoundingly detailed three dimensions, and its given realistic, familiar, and even magical life. McDull, Prince de la Bun does something very different and very worthy with its four-color frivolity: it manages to reflect real life, presenting it as ordinary, pathetic, ridiculous, special, and magical—and it does it all at the same time! Such a cinema feat is probably impossible in live-action, and the fact that Toe Yuen and company were able to do it with a dimwitted pig as their protagonist should get them a heaping of praise. Again, this film really makes next to no sense. Yet somehow, it really doesn't have to. (Kozo 2005)

Awards: 24th Hong Kong Film Awards
• Winner - Best Original Song ("Gum Gum Gum", performed by The Pancakes)
• Nomination - Best New Director (Toe Yuen Kin-To)
41st Golden Horse Awards
• Winner - Best Animated Film
11th Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards
• Best Picture

DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 0 NTSC
Panorama Entertainment
2-Disc Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1
Removable English and Chinese Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

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images courtesy of Panorama Entertainment Copyright 2002-2017 Ross Chen