That's the Way I Like It

on October 15, 1999 by Wade Major
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   Kung Fu meets disco in first-time writer/director Glen Goei's delightful valentine to two of the most memorable trends of the 1970s. A surprisingly polished and refreshingly offbeat romantic comedy, "That's the Way I Like It" is also a significant milestone for the miniscule Singapore film industry, evidencing a level of technical sophistication that could herald the coming of a "New Wave" not unlike the Hong Kong renaissance of the 1980s.
   Set during Singapore's 1977 disco craze, the film stars stony-faced Adrian Pang as Ah Hock, an obsessive Bruce Lee fan whose every waking minute is devoted to either emulating his hero or bowling with his buddies. But when the gang is reluctantly lured to a thinly-veiled knockoff of "Saturday Night Fever" entitled "Forever Fever," Ah Hock finds himself bitten by a new bug: disco. Approaching his childhood friend Mei (Madeline Tan) to become his dance partner, Ah plunges headlong into the disco lifestyle, setting his sights on a forthcoming dance competition, the purse of which would finally buy him the motorcycle he has long coveted.
   Such lofty goals, however, will not be so easily realized. Complications include Mei's unspoken feelings for Ah, Ah's own attraction to a beautiful dancer named Julie (Anna Belle Francis), a simmering rivalry with Julie's roughneck boyfriend Richard (Pierre Png), and the domestic friction that erupts when Ah's brother Boon (Steven Lim) announces his intention to have a sex change.
   While the cocktail of pop-culture camp, traditional romantic comedy and offbeat gender-bending will strike some viewers as off-puttingly odd, Goei's approach is well within the parameters of similar Asian comedies from Japan and Hong Kong. Notwithstanding a passing resemblance to the popular Japanese hit "Shall We Dance," "That's the Way I Like It" is really an unabashed tribute to "Saturday Night Fever," cited by Goei himself as the turning point when Singaporeans first transitioned from Asian to American pop culture.
   With an almost duplicitous cleverness, Goei transforms his straightforward romantic comedy into a delirious homage, eventually paralleling entire "Saturday Night Fever" scenes and subplots such that Ah's life becomes virtually indistinguishable from that of John Travolta's Tony Montero.
   Ironically, the film's commercial prospects may have less to do with its subject matter than the simple fact that it was filmed in "Singlish"--a Singaporean dialect that is close enough to conventional English that the film is being released without subtitles.
   And that, coupled with better-than-average prospects for a cult following, should be enough to have Goei and distributor Miramax dancing all the way to the bank.    Starring Adrian Pang, Madeline Tan, Pierre Png, Anna Belle Francis, Steven Lim. Directed by Glen Goei. Written by Glen Goei. Produced by Glen Goei, Jeffrey Chiang, Tan Chih Chong. A Miramax release. Romantic Comedy. Rated PG-13 for momentary language and some violence. Running time: 92 min.
Tags: Madeline Tan, Pierre Png, Anna Belle Francis, Steven Lim, Jeffrey Chiang, Tan Chih Chong, Miramax, Romantic Comedy, Adrian Pang, Glen Goei
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