sumolah! great expectations

Sumolah movie poster

I had great expectations and hopes for this movie. Maybe it was the hyped-up marketing, as one CinemaOnline reviewer puts it, maybe because I’d enjoyed Afdlin Shauki’s previous movies and stage acts, maybe because for nationalism purposes I’d wanted it to be so good to sweep me off my heavy feet.

To call a spade a spade, I unfortunately left the cinema hall rather unimpressed, and I’ll tell you why.

Movie synopsis:

Ramlee ( Afdlin Shauki ), a down and out loser accepted a challenge to finish 20 plates of sushi within one minute. He lost the bet, and had to work in the Japanese restaurant ‘Boleh Sushi’ headed by Honda ( Patrick Teoh ) to pay off his debt. Soon he was friends with his colleagues, Haris ( Awie ) and Andy ( Radhi Khalid ), learnt values of hard work and even fall head over heels with Honda’s half-Malay, half-Japanese daughter, Siti ( Inthira Charoenpura ).

Soon Ramlee realised he had been tricked to be the 3rd member of Boleh Sushi’s sumo team, and had to take part in the Malaysian Sushi Association Amateur Sumo Wrestling Championship (MSAASWC). During training, he had an encounter with a member of a rival sumo team, Akira ( Gurmit Singh ) who was also Siti’s ex-flame. Will Ramlee be discouraged, or would he embrace the spirit of ‘nokotta’ so pimped out in the movie?

The Good: Afdlin Shauki is an awesome comedian. His timing is always spot on, and he played to the stereotypical expectations of a fat person. I liked the introduction to sumo; not sure how accurate it is, but it was interesting to learn something new. The trip to Japan was lovely, but I suppose the credit goes to Japan for having all these bootiful sceneries. But overall I find the movie colourful.

Kartina Aziz as Ramlee’s long-suffering mother was aptly casted. The easy chemistry between Ramlee and Akira (even though they were rivals) was noticeable, maybe because Afdlin and Gurmit had worked before on other projects. I liked their sharp exchanges, had me LOL-ed at times.

Gavin Yap’s portrayal of a damn skinny but punk crazy sumo fighter was funny. I can’t make up my mind if he was maybe out of place, but he definitely provided comic relief. Maybe unintentionally? I don’t know, but the whole cinema LOL-ed at his antics.

The OK: Patrick Teoh’s portrayal as a Japanese dude who made Malaysia his home wasn’t as memorable as I’d hoped it would be, sometimes even frustrating. Reason = they had him speak English like a typical Chinaman, something I thought that could have been done without. I didn’t think it added value to the movie, him enunciating the way he did. Performance-wise, he delivered according to his given role.

Gurmit Singh was funny at times. But during certain scenes when he was acting smug or arrogant, I almost expected him to break out, “DONCH PRAY PRAY AR!!!!!!” I grew up watching this man on Channel/TCS 5 ok.

Everything else: if I didn’t put it in ‘The Good’ or ‘The Bad’, they all fall under ‘The OK’ category.

The Bad: I have a major, major grip with sound. Someone explained to me before how Afdlin directs/ acts in his movies, and does not record sound on-location. I think it is a serious overlook in any movie-making attempts, because IMHO sound is critical and crucial in the deliverance of a movie. I really, really dislike lip-syncing in movies, and throughout Sumolah! I couldn’t help but to wonder how much more I’d enjoyed the movie if it weren’t for the bad sound parts. Lip-syncing is bad. Lip-syncing is annoying. Lip-syncing is fake. Lip-syncing derives the audience of emotional connection with the characters. Nothing can replace sound/ dialogue recorded the same time the roles were acted out. It is just not the same.

Plus if sound was recorded real-time, they could have made do without the extra ‘er… err… heh.. hehh.. ermm..’ produced when they record it in the studio. Acting shy, uncertain and abashed need not be so painful to hear.

Props to Inthira for having to learn and memorise her lines in Malay at such short time, but I thought her character was quite redundant. She is pretty, she looks hot in a kimono, but I’d have preferred her to be given a stronger role. Not to say that being a morally righteous, culturally-aware, hardcore motivator is something to be dissed, but… that’s it? Also her performance was too subdued; perhaps due to her role, but I’d seen Nang-nak and she was brilliant. Erm, you make the connection lah ๐Ÿ™‚

I also felt Sumolah! tried too hard to emphasise certain moral values, especially at the end of the film. Too much, beb, too much. It was also too long lah… 2 hours 20 minutes… as lengthy as Spiderman 3 but not as much ‘isi-isi penting’ because they were repeated over and over again.

I know that Celcom and Ogawa are the main sponsors of Sumolah! They were also heavily pimped throughout the movie, and at times it was just too much lor. Some parts were like pure advertisements for both Celcom and Ogawa — so much that when Haris was on video-call with his sweetie, I’d expected something like ‘Celcom 3G brings you closer to family and loved ones’. Blah.

I don’t even want to talk about Ogawa’s blatant, in-your-face product placement. Just a note to all advertisers: yes you poured in/ will continue to pour in money to the movie industries, local movies need more support, but please leave the creative control alone kthx.

Overall: Like I’d said, I’d expected better. I hope whatever I’d written will not discourage the people who worked so hard to bring Sumolah! to screen. I know Zona put a lot into the production, you can read their production diaries here. There’s always room for improvement, kan? ๐Ÿ˜€

I was telling James about the movie, and he asked, “Cicak-man vs. Sumo-lah… who wins?”

In that case, Sumo-lah! wins the best movie of the year, y’all!

(Sumo-lah! is showing in Malaysian cinemas now. Go catch it if you want to, before it is too late, i.e. Pirates 3 coming out and the cinemas get overcrowded.)



  1. yeah, i think lots of ppl share ur views. but glad that it was still entertaining.
    thanks for watching, and reviewing Suan ^_~

  2. u watched?? is there any chinese watching? i wanted to go to cinema to check it out, but sked. u noe?

  3. zona: you are welcome ๐Ÿ™‚

    fish: lol obviously I watched it, kan? haha well as far as I know, I was the only Chinese in the cinema hall that day, but I don’t see any reason to be scared? ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. inthira is a hottie. anyway, a jap-malay woman playing a strong role wouldn be quite right considering how submissive women in those cultures are.

    it was a popcorn flick, nothing more. Was really pissed off the product placements though. The producers and advertisers got to realize that sometimes less is more.

  5. Glad I didn’t watch it then tbh ๐Ÿ˜€

  6. Wanted to watch cicak man and sumo-lah to see how lame they can get(as compared to Tagalog Movies). but cannot! no english subtitles. i need a translator!

    regarding the bad lip syncing (maybe more apt is dubbing), this is quite tricky in filmmaking. inevitably, there are dialogues, specially in outdoor scenes, wherein the boom mic doesn’t neatly pick up the lines, but instead ,it records the ambient sounds.

    this is the reason why dubbing is needed (instead of retaking the scene).

    i remember dubbing one simple line (just 10-15 words) in a short film we made years ago. it took us more than an hour to perfect it! what more for a full length movie! that explains the bad dubbing in lotsa movies. ๐Ÿ™‚


  7. adrian, sumolah has subtitles. the film is in english, malay and japanese. so as an when the dialogue is, the subtitles are in english & malay.

  8. st, glad you didnt either. tbh.

  9. Dabido(Teflon) says:

    I just like the idea of it having something to do with Japan! ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. sicko: yeah she’s hot, but somehow I felt she was … underplayed? should have done more? given more things to do ?? dunno.. product placements were really blah, kan ?

    ST: heh you can read it here anyways!

    adrian: forgot to mention, they have subtitles. can’t remember if cicakman had subs, should have if i am not mistaken.

    we do have the technology to capture great on-location sound. Several local movies have that, and they were shot in jungles, busy streets, etc. In this case I think it was more of the director’s preference, though I think he may have to rethink his directing method to allow on-location sound recording. Or maybe spend a bit more money for that :p

    dabs: you are coming to KL, right? by the time you make up your mind whether to come here or not, and actually make it here, i’ll get ya the DVD ๐Ÿ˜€

  11. Dabido(Teflon) says:

    Suanie – Yes, I have every plan to come to KL. It’s not me trying to make up my mind. It has a lot to do with the fact that the other Assistant Manager left, the Manager is about to leave, I’m the only person who can do end of month, I have to be here for the new Manager to start [as I’m the ONLY person who knows where everything is and how stuff works], Plus I have to do all the Tax Group Certificates for all the workers in June and as such I’ve had to cancel my leave for now. Hopefully, I’ll get there in July … maybe … or August … or something. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ll say a Tentative Mid-July for now. BUT, depends on work, not on whether I can make up my mind or not. ๐Ÿ™‚

    [I just hope Fireangel doesn’t beat me up when I get there. I hate seeing a grown man cry … especially when it’s me!] ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Yeah, I’ve intended to watch this on Wednesdays (half-price), but not tomorrow, tomorrow I’m going to the sneak preview of PoTC3, YES!

    But for some reason, sound just seem to be a major problem with local productions, a little something I had the misfortune to find out during my assistant director gig for this telemovie last month. Same thing happened, needed dubbing, I myself had a cameo role in that film, and it took me nearly an hour to redo my… three short lines.


  1. […] You’ve met the people. You’ve had a connection with them over similar hobbies. And, you want to like their movies. Yet, when you go through the show with a lot of cringing moments, raised eyebrows, and slaps on the head at the most obtuse moments – that’s when you ask yourself, do you care more about being nice or being honest? In short, the movie sucked. It could have been, and should have been better – yet it was filled from beginning to end with blatant advertising of products by the main sponsors for the film, Ogawa and Celcom. I sure as hell ain’t going to use any of those two products ever again.รƒโ€šร‚ย  I want to rant more, but out of respect (and that I pretty much covered about 40% of how I felt was wrong in my published review), I won’t. Unless you ask me nicely.รƒโ€šร‚ย  With chocolates. Go read Suanie’s review, she pretty much covered what I’m whining about. […]

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