Our Sister Mambo

Genre: Comedy, Drama

Director: Ho Wi Ding

Screenplay: Michael Chiang

Cast: Moses Lim, Michelle Chong, Audrey Luo, Ethel Yap, Oon Shu An, Joey Leong

Running Length: 93 minutes

Synopsis: Set against the backdrop of modern Singapore, Our Sister Mambo follows the well-meaning efforts of the spritely second daughter, Mambo (Michelle Chong) to get her sisters – big sister Grace (Ethel Yap), third sister Rose (Oon Shu An) and baby sister June (Joey Leong) hitched, with hiccups and misunderstandings along the way. 

Review: Although it’s somewhat of a corporate vanity project, being Cathay Organisation’s celebratory film marking its 80th anniversary, Our Sister Mambo is a watchable film with relatively few awkward moments, though it does comes across as being too safe a filmmaking venture at times. 

Based loosely on two movies from Cathay’s stable of classic films, Our Sister Hedy and The Greatest Civil War of Our Time, Our Sister Mambo has a slew of plotlines, all revolving around the (mis)adventures of the Wong family, consisting of a genial patriarch (Moses Lim), a Korea-obsessed matriarch (Audrey Luo) and their four daughters. Mambo (Michelle Chong) is the narrator and ostensibly the core of the movie, but unfortunately her lawyer-to-chef storyline is the least interesting of the six family members. That’s not to say that the rest of the plotlines are necessarily that much more interesting – while Michael Chiang does his darnedest to weave the thin story threads together, there are literally no surprises to be had here. In fact, Our Sister Mambo frequently feels like an extended episode of an 80s or 90s TV sitcom, especially so since Moses Lim was, for many Singaporeans, part of essential TV viewing in the mid-90s as the head of the Tan family in Under One Roof. 

While there are multiple familial conflicts that unfold in Our Sister Mambo, there’s never the sense that anything is at stake, and the script is too eager to resolve each plotline and move on to the next, as though there’s an invisible checklist that Wi Ding and Chiang are marking off. There’s also a lot of wasted comedic talent in the film – while Moses Lim, Michelle Chong and even Siti Khalijah are rather heavyweight comedians, almost none of it is on display here, with all three playing their characters on the straight and narrow. 

What does manage to save the show are a slew of great performances from the cast, none more so than Audrey Luo. Although believability is a bit stretched with her being cast opposite Moses Lim despite being literally half his age, the duo shares a great chemistry. Audrey further ups the game with excellent comic timing, and is the main source of the laughs in the show. The four actresses playing the Wong daughters all do a relatively decent job, and it’s only Moses who is, surprisingly, the weak link, with nothing much to do in the show at all. 

Constrained by the need to shoehorn the film into Cathay’s 80th anniversary, the association does at times sit uncomfortably with the rest of the proceedings, but the awkwardness is kept to a minimum, and we are even treated to appearances by Cathay heavyweights Grace Chang and Maria Menado – though I must contest the indignity of the decision to cut away repeatedly from Grace Chang’s recorded video message to focus on a very inconsequential element of the plot. 

Rating: * * ½ (out of four stars)

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One thought on “Our Sister Mambo

  1. Zachary says:

    Our Sister Mambo, is absolutely and undefiantly the must-watch heart-warming, feel-good and make-your-day-better type family/romantic comedy movie of the year. (The script) Written in a local culture context, the movie is full of characters in which all of us can relate to dearly, one way or another, in our everyday lives. Although it is Cathay Organization’s 80th Anniversary film, its timely release complements well with the celebration mood of Singapore’s 50th Independence Day. It is surely “the Singapore movie to watch” of the season with your love ones, family and friends.

    Strangely, unlike the movie title suggests, the storyline is not built primarily on the character, Mambo (played by Michelle Chong). But, Michelle’s overwhelming star power delightfully satisfies the most demanding audience’s appetite with another of her outstanding performances in the movie. And, honestly, how could one not love to have a sister like, Mambo !! This movie is clearly one monumental evidence that Michelle’s gifts in acting have already crafted her into league of her own as an actor (no wonder she keeps saying that she prefers working behind the scenes. “There is nothing left in acting for you to challenge izzit ??”). In my opinion, she is unquestionably adept to play any character in any movie genre she chooses to, effortlessly. Because when one casts Michelle Chong in a movie, one can be at least 200% sure that she is at least 300% engaged in the role, from beginning to the end, spiritually and professionally.

    The movie would be lack-lustre however, without other judiciously selected cast members. Worth an honorable mention would be none other than the versatile, Audrey Luo. Even though Audrey’s age may be a little far-fetched for her role as mom, she did nothing less than outstanding work in playing the character. Audrey was so darn good in the movie that one could easily be misled to feeling dazed and confused when seeing her “play” her real self in real life. Apart from being totally successful in playing a mother whom one loves to hate but yet adores with a passion, Audrey really is, one hell of an actor who is made to grace the performing stage.

    The movie would not have been more complete without Moses Lim, not to mention that its been a long while since we all saw Moses in action. He plays a father of four daughters and whose four decade long career is in the wane yet never lose himself in despair. Ultimately, it is for the love of cinema and having a wonderful family that Moses could finally and proudly pronounce: I Lived, I Loved, I Mattered.

    One of the climatic scenes of the movie has got to be the unexpected appearance of Grace Chang (Gelan), presenting a hearty congratulatory message to Cathay Organization for its 80th Anniversary. Grace Chang, now in her 80s, was one of the original movie Queens of the 1950s-60s era, whose credits included The Wild Wild Rose (in which she performed the golden mandarin oldie, Carmen), Mambo Girl and Air Hostess (filmed partly in pre-independent Singapore). But, you won’t see Grace doing her captivating cha-cha dance. Instead, you shall have our very own, Michelle Chong, together with the entire cast, dancing to Ja-Jambo for you. How about that !

    So, here you have, Our Sister Mambo. Grab tickets today … sit back … enjoy !! : )

    Zachary*

    * I am an independent movie reviewer with no association with the production or any of the participating members of Our Sister Mambo.

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