Producers: Ng Say Yong, Toong Soo Wei, Johnny Lau, Benny Koh, Tong Khoon Mun
Director: Cheng Chai Hong
Cast: Jaspers Lai, Joey Pink, Farah Lola, Dasa Dharamahsena, Jo Tan, Mark Kinoshita
Release details: Streaming on meWatch from 28 May
2 out of 5 stars
SINGAPORE — Mr Kiasu, the '90s comic book icon which was made into a Channel 5 sitcom starring Chew Chor Meng, has been resurrected by mm2 Entertainment as a reboot web series, Mr Kiasu 2.0, streaming on Mediacorp's meWatch. The series stars Jaspers Lai as the title character and comprises six short episodes ranging in length from 15-20 minutes. Even so, I found it hard to get through even a couple of episodes due to the poor writing.
Firstly, does "kiasu-ism" – the fear of losing out to others, the drive to outcompete others by any means – even resonate with Singaporeans any more? The Mr Kiasu comics were cute two or three decades ago because they reflected genuine social attitudes, even if the norm of kiasu-ism was more negative than desirable. Aren't we nowadays aspiring towards an inclusiveness and compassionate society, instead of a dog-eat-dog world? Why dredge up this outdated relic of a mentality from the '90s? Does Mr Kiasu still have anything to teach us today?
In any case, the producers couldn't even commit to the original Kiasu character. Jaspers doesn't sport the iconic crew cut hairstyle which Chew Chor Meng bore in the TV adaptation, and the kiasu-ness of this incarnation of Kiasu extends merely as far as hogging office pastries for himself.
The writers attempted to update the franchise by placing this iteration of Kiasu in a tech start-up that makes smartwatches, as well as giving him purported mental health problems to reflect today's awareness of mental health issues. But he mostly spends his time getting into farcical shenanigans with plots that make no sense – in one episode, he kidnaps a colleague who never recognises him through his voice under his gunnysack-over-head disguise. The cast actually includes actors who are genuinely funny, like Farah Lola and Mark Kinoshita, who manage to eke out a few laughs but are ultimately bogged down by poorly written stories.
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