Keeping with my new years resolution; watching more local movies, and at least one movie a month, Ola Bola has the honour of being the first of the year. I’m going to keep this as spoiler free as possible!

Disclaimer: As this is a review done on my blog, it goes without saying that this is¬†my own, personal opinion, and was in no way meant to hurt or offend anyone’s feelings. :)

Directed by¬†Chiu Keng Guan, the man behind last year’s box office success, The Journey; Ola Bola is a story about the National Football team set in the 1970’s through the 1980’s, as they’re on their way to hopefully make it¬†into the Olympic games in Moscow, all while juggling their family troubles, feuds within the team, a new coach, and also, not letting the whole nation down.

The casts are relatively new, with 3 legends making cameos (spot them in the movie!). The story cuts between the present and the past, with¬†Marianne Tan’s Marianne (hah) interviewing the older version of Eric, as he tells the team’s story. And therein lies the problem. But lets not dive into the negatives just yet. To the positives;-

This is a beautifully made movie. Like truly, one of the nicest looking local movie I’ve ever seen.¬†There were instances in the movie, where the camera pans over the scenery, and the music takes off, I felt really blown away. You can cut pieces of this movie to make a tourism ad. Its gorgeous!

The colours are so vibrant, the choice of scenery was amazing, the costumes are groovy and the sets are so authentic that it makes you go,”Holy¬†cow, the 70s and 80s were rad as fuck.”

And can I just say that the true heroes of this movie is everyone’s hair. Makeup and Hairstyling team, please stand up and give yourselves a round of applause. Because while I was watching the movie, I kept thinking over and over again,”Damn son! Those hair!”. Well fucking done! Except for past Eric’s moustache, which was horrible.

And sadly, this is where the positives end.

A problem I’ve always had when it comes to some of our local movies is that¬†there’s always too much going on. For a movie with only 110 minutes running time, it really rushes to cover as many¬†subplots, characters and issues as possible. From the very beginning of the movie, you’re introduced to characters with problems and woes over and over again. Every character has a story to tell, and because each of¬†their¬†screen time is very limited, you’re not going to have much time to care about them before you’re introduced¬†to yet another¬†character. And another. And another. And another.

And sometimes I’m left there wondering, why should I care?¬†You’re never given that much back story on the characters, or their history with the team and its members. Just something like; Character A has this problem, but you don’t know why he’s in said problem, and what’s his connection with Character B? Was there something you missed to tell you that they’re close? The character’s dynamics just feels off. You’re also spoon fed information by other characters who’s sole purpose in the movie¬†is to tell you, the audience, things that are important to the plot and pushes the plot forward.

And the emotional speeches are so corny, its hard to feel sorry for the characters. And its sad, because you really want to feel for them, but you’re also bursting out laughing at some of the over the top acting, and corny speeches. And the worst parts of this movie is whenever someone speaks English. I have no idea why, it comes off sudden, unnatural, and forced.

And then there’s a big plot problem I have with the story. This story is told from the point of view of Eric, and past Eric barely gets any story time save for small convenient dialogue that tells us his back story but not much else. Otherwise, he’s barely talking to any of his team members. Heck, sometimes, he’s barely even there. How he even knows half of the things that were¬†happening in his story and telling it¬†to Marianne is beyond me.

Which brings me to the next problem, Marianne. Marianne’s story was weak, and her acting was one of the worst. Especially when she’s speaking English. I have no idea what’s with everyone in this movie and the English language. Its like all of a sudden, they sound like they’re robots reading from a teleprompter. Acting aside, the plot of Marianne’s story was suppose to be the one carrying the entire movie, yet her motives and her general resolution just came out really flat. Again, you don’t know enough about her to actually care. And its a shame. I feel like her character would’ve been more interesting if we got to know her just a wee bit more. Instead, its meh.

Don’t get me started on the coach and his lack of story except for that 1 conversation with Tauke. How vague is,”Don’t make the same mistakes I did”?

All that said, I’m not bashing the movie, or its actors. I actually liked the movie, believe it or not. There were some really, really good moments being delivered by the actors, and despite a large majority of them being new, they were genuinely good. I especially liked¬†the actor that played Cai, who was supposed to be a comic relief trope. His story, I felt, was a lot stronger than Eric’s even, and the actor delivered both comical scenes and emotional scenes flawlessly. Another¬†character I loved was Rahman, who was handled wonderfully by his actor. His scenes was one of the strongest, and thus, he’s a character you’d actually feel for.

The others, like Tauke, Ali and Muthu, are hit and misses. And I think its largely not the fault of the actors, but the problem of the story. The 3 characters have the most screen time in the movie, and yet, it feels like they¬†fall down flat. Just when you’re about to care for them, you’re pulled into another direction and being given another plot the story doesn’t need.

While I’m on the subject of Tauke, Ali and Muthu – there are times this movie felt like it was forcing this “1 Malaysia” feel just a bit too much. I get it, with the way our country is now, we do need a reminder that this is how Malaysia is supposed to be; united. Yet, it still feels forced down your throat. And then there’s the whole message of ‘succeeding in your own motherland instead of elsewhere’ message. Its actually a message I’ve always agreed with, but one I feel actually comes out rather¬†weak in the movie.¬†

I know it sounds like I’m ripping the movie to shreds, but no. I went in with 0 expectations, and was left pleasantly surprised by the movie. I went out with a smile on my face, and discussed it thoroughly with my husband, and we both agreed, that it was a good local movie.

TLDR; It is a beautifully made movie, with terrific cinematography, art direction and a wonderful score. I’ve even watched a bit of the making of, so yes, the post work for this movie was fantastic! For me, if they had cut down on the amount of characters and stories they want to tell, issues and propaganda they want to tackle, and perhaps focus on a sole driving character, all while keeping things relevant to the present day story, then the overall movie would’ve been better. I’m always nit picking on storytelling, and for me, this one could’ve been better. But that’s my opinion.

Should you watch it? Yes, very much so. Not only to support our local film scene, but to see that our local film scene is not hopeless after all. Yes, there will always be those horrid Remp-It like movies who gets away with being crap, but this one gives me hope.

The posters claim – You Will Believe. Well, this really does make me believe. Believe in our local film industry!

Score: B-

x larxy