Director – Brian Tse, Screenplay – Alice Mak & Brian Tse, Producers – Samuel Choy, He Zhikai & Yu Jie, Music – Ng Cheuk-yin, Production Design – Alice Mak & Yeung Hok-tak. Production Company – Sunwah Media/Toonmax Media/Well Talent.
The piglet McDull is a pupil at Springfield Kindergarten, one of the lowest ranking kindergartens in the city. With closure threatened, the principal decides to throw an alumni ball and calls for donations to save the school but this fails to produce anything. He decides that the only other option is to form a children’s choir with McDull and the other animals. This ends up being a surprise success.
McDull is a popular Hong Kong comic-book character, centred around the escapades of hapless, not very successful pig child. A creation of cartoonist Alice Mak and writer Brian Tse, McDull first appeared as a supporting character in the McMug comic-strips in Mingpao magazine but grew to find his own popularity. Both McDull and McMug enjoy a great deal of success in Hong Kong and have been merchandised in a number of different mediums. There have been four previous animated feature films spun off around McDull with My Life as McDull (2001), McDull, Prince de la Bun (2004), McDull, The Alumni (2006) and McDull, Kung Fu Kindergarten (2009), all directed by Brian Tse.
The Pork of Music was my first exposure to the world of McDull. Possibly in not being Chinese, speaking Cantonese or familiar with everyday issues that concern people living in Hong Kong, I missed some of the film’s numerous in-jokes and satirical targets that seemed aimed at this audience. Nevertheless, the film on its own is a likeable piece of satire. It quickly launches into its intended targets with a sarcastic bite. The style of the animation and the acerbic sense of humour reminded one of Beavis and Butt-Head (1993– ), albeit a Beavis and Butt-Head reimagined with an amazingly vibrant colour palette. The film travels through a dysfunctional portrait of the worst kindergarten in Hong Kong, which it delivers with some amusement, especially when it comes to the scenes of the alumni charity event.
The main problem with McDull – The Pork of Music is that the sarcastic work it starts out as is very different to the film that it eventually ends up being. Once we get to the introduction of the children’s choir, the film starts to take itself surprisingly seriously for the most part. It essentially follows the well-worn plot arc of the rock band movie about the travails of a group trying to get their breaks. In the numerous scenes of the choir performing, the film becomes repetitive and it feels as though there is not enough material to fill out the running time. By the end of the film, with tributes to headmasters that have inspired and the end credits accompanied by a clip of a children’s choir, the tone has become mawkish and sentimental, which is something at almost complete remove from the satiric portrait of a kindergarten world that we started out watching.