Review: Crayon

Text by Aidila Razak

Some Malaysian movies are works of art. They are languid, calculated, at times difficult to watch, and cannot hope to make much money at all.

And then there are the ‘commercial’ movies that make the Hari Raya Aidilfitri movie list, which are happy to just entertain without pretending to be anything deep or meaningful.

By choice or otherwise, Dean Burhannuddin’s first attempt at writing, directing and producing Crayon (Zioss Production) sits rather uncomfortably between the two.

While it is head and shoulders above the probably more expensive ‘commercial’ comedy of errors on love gone wrong littering the Malaysian movie scene, it still fails to even scratch the surface of the difficult questions it tries to ask.

Crayon tells the story of angsty Malaysian ASEAN Scholar (code for really smart Malaysian kid poached by Singapore) Adam Wan, played by Hon Kahoe of Talentime fame and his Singaporean room-mate Rafaat (newcomer Faisal Abdullah).

In the 83-minute motion picture, both find themselves volunteering in an orphanage in a kampung in Malacca, run by Mak Engku (Adibah Noor) as part of a requirement for a college course on corporate social responsibility.

The multi-lingual film opens promisingly enough with bright shots of the Lion City, but stumbles in the first scene, where stilted acting overshadows the aim of establishing Adam as the angry anti-establishment type.

It thankfully picks up from there, as we get introduced to the nerdy klutz Rafaat whom stand-up comedian on hiatus Faisal plays quite convincingly—that is if you forgive him for sounding more Malaysian than Singaporean.

The duo’s journey to self-discovery comes with the help of orphan Afiq (played by nine-year-old Joshry Adamme) who along with his multiracial mates from the orphanage  grow very fond of the two city boys.

And if we are not convinced of this by Afiq’s fairly cute and touching lines, there is even a montage of the kids sprucing up the orphanage, which by the way is cash-strapped because the authorities are not sure how to deal with a multiracial/religious home.

To make matters worse, Mak Engku is harassed by bank-deployed thugs (who are violent and bumbling in equal measures) who want to take over the land on which the quite lovely home stands on.

(How Mak Engku, who gets donations from corporation and the kampung folk even got hold on sea-frontage land, we don’t know. Maybe she’s blue blooded, hence the name?)

Predictably, this puts Adam in a corporation-hating frenzy but it doesn’t last long because Rafaat convinces him that they can do their part to raise cash through a corporate-sponsored concert and an auction of crayon drawings from the children.

Is it enough to solve the problem? Those who watched the trailer (www.crayonthemovie.com) would suspect otherwise, but the proof in the watching.

And yes, there are sad bits, but there is probably no need to bring out the tissues because the scenes which perhaps had so much potential to take the film to a slightly deeper level were frustratingly short and the acting too thin.

If anything, the movie is visually pleasing. It is not hard to see that much thought has been put into how each scene is constructed and the result is very satisfying.

You would also get a few laughs thanks to high points in the hit-and-miss writing, saved mostly by the good comedic timing by the seasoned Adibah, up-and-coming Faisal and Joey who plays one of villains.

Go with an open mind and maybe bring the whole family along (children are set to have a great time). It may not be life-altering, but it will be worth the price of the ticket.

Crayon opens on November 11 nationwide at selected cinemas.