881 is one of those rare local films which struck a chord with me. While some may dismiss it as a crass musical comedy, I find that it resonates with many Singaporeans by showing how underdog performers can have their day. The show’s colourful and spectacular costumes, out-of-this-world sets, and highly cheesy performances just adds to the whole fantasy of getai entertainment. It gives a sense of escapism and good old campy fun.
I like the acting by the different leads in the movie: Liu Ling Ling as the “mamasan”, Mindee Ong as the cancer stricken “Little Papaya”, Yeo Yann Yann as the family angst ridden “Big Papaya”, and of course Qi Yuwu and his rooster. As one who has grown up with the Hokkien dialect in my childhood, I found its use refreshingly poetic in the movie, without necessarily degenerating into the more “colourful” aspects of the dialect. The contrast between the glamour of life on stage versus the gritty realities of day-to-day living makes the movie even more compelling.