McDull: Me and My Mum (麥兜‧我和我媽媽)

McDull Me and My Mum 3

Hong Kong’s favorite little porker looks a bit different this time around. In his latest film, the lovable but low-IQ McDull appears in the guise of Mak, Bobby Mak. Now grown up and sporting some serious sideburns, he is a world renowned private detective whose services are much sought after by Scotland Yard and the FBI.

The intellectual awakening of the dim piglet may surprise longtime fans who never expected the kid who couldn’t figure out the lunch menu to be out-Sherlocking Sherlock. But Detective Mak’s latest case, the murder and robbery of a tycoon, isn’t the focus of this movie. As the police and suspects, a group of preschool partygoers, bide their time and await the cause of death to reveal itself, Bobby entertains the budding gumshoes with stories about how his mother helped him become a top sleuth.

Like some of the other films in the franchise, McDull: Me and My Mum weaves together seemingly random episodes that crescendo to some profound awareness about life; in this case, it is McDull’s abiding love for his self-sacrificing mother. The stories are readily accessible to children, who will delight in the liberal amount of toilet humor. Mrs. Mak, down on her luck again, tries her hand at drawing lottery numbers, but when every ticket is a bust, McDull blames his shitty number-picking fingers for their misfortune.

There are more hygiene-friendly stories. Ever the resourceful mother, Mrs. Mak teaches her boy survival skills using nothing but a wire hanger. In one of the more poignant scenes, McDull spends a few days in the wide open countryside with his “uncle,” someone his mom trusts to take care of him but whom she never mentions and who he never sees again.

McDull films are generally strongest when they sharpen their lenses on Hong Kong, and in this area, McDull: Me and My Mum comes up a little short. The loss of community is acutely felt by the Mak family, and this often causes Mrs. Mak to shuffle from one job to another. Meanwhile, McDull, always a dependable eater, is sad to see the local hot pot restaurant torn down only to be replaced by fancy high rises. The changes, while readily identifiable to people in Hong Kong, are not visually rooted in the city. This film lacks the cozy feel of familiar streets and landmarks, and even a small shift in animation techniques – stronger brushstrokes, an homage to Monet’s Water Lilies – gives it a more wordly aesthetic. I couldn’t help but feel a growing loss of local ownership, probably another commentary in itself.

Still, the film retains a good amount of Cantonese humor and Sandra Ng’s vivacious personality comes through as McDull’s exasperated but devoted mom. After years of holding up the back end of her son’s films, Mrs. Mak finally gets the attention she deserves. The movie is unashamed of its sentimentality, but it’s packaged so adorably that no one will blame you for shedding a tear or two.

McDull Me and My Mum 2

“I want chicken chicken chicken chicken.”

“Yum Yum Cha Cha” by BabyJohn:

McDull Me and My Mum 1

Released: 2014
Prod: Peter Chan 陳可辛; Jojo Hui 許月珍; Brian Tse 謝立文
Dir: Samson Chiu 趙良駿
Writer: Brian Tse 謝立文
Cast: Sandra Ng 吳君如; Anthony Wong 黃秋生; BabyJohn 蔡瀚億; Li Yundi 李雲迪; The Pancakes; Zhang Zheng Zhong 張正中
Time: 80 min
Lang: Cantonese
Country: Hong Kong
Reviewed: 2014