Jack Neo hits restart and recycles the same characters into the hellish Naval Diving Unit training camp that does very little diving
Due to the strong demand from the fans of the franchise for another instalment, Singapore's most successful filmmaker Jack Neo (I Not Stupid, Liang Popo) decided to produce and direct another one but instead of a sequel or a completely fresh reboot, the same characters are lazily recycled into an alternate timeline where Ah Boys ("kids") are enlisted to the Naval Diving Unit (NDU) in National Service (NS) instead of the army. Although the training is different with a few new characters introduced, the process and structure of the film are practically the same as the first two instalments.
All the main actors from the first two film reprise their respective roles except for Ridhwan Azman presumably due to the controversies he got himself in. Wang Wei Liang's role as Lobang seems to be the bigger character this time compared to Joshua Tan's Ken Chow. While Ken Chow is still the exact same immature spoilt rich brat who just got dumped by his girlfriend, Lobang is expanded more than just a witty, street smart salesman as he is given more depth with typical TV drama-like family problems. Maxi Lim plays the same annoying Mr.-Know-It-All Aloysius a.k.a. Wayang King with a bit of surprise. Tosh Zhang is also back as Alex Ong but instead of a straight-up sergeant stereotype, he seems to show more compassion this time. Noah Yap's I.P. Man, for unknown reason, is reduced to a cameo appearance during the closing credits. Due to the absence Azman's character and lack of any new main non-Chinese character, it looks less multiracial than the original.
So it's basically a restart where the misfits meeting each other for the first time.. again. The first half of the film feels repetitive and familiar as expected 'cause we've already seen it before in the first film. The recruits go through practically the exact same fun and hilarious process and experience -- secretly doing things not allowed in NS, getting outside food, gambling, avoid getting caught by warrants, get punished when get caught, etc. Although there are some new funny and heartfelt dramatic moments, the script and humour in overall this time feels very toned down, more family-oriented and less relatable than before. Some jokes feel as though they were forcefully placed in between scenes to make the film funnier. There are also a few awfully cheesy sequences -- recruits chant "hooyah" to each other, corny heroic slomo walks in sunshades (without explosions in the background though) -- these scenes made me cringed to a point that I felt embarrassed for the movie.
Unlike the first two films, this 2-hour-and-a-half instalment feels much longer and yet rushed as it has to redevelop the relationship between the existing characters while introducing the new ones like Hei Long (Wesley Wong) who's a homecoming gang leader from Hong Kong with silly family problems, and Warrant Lum a.k.a. No. 2 (Justin Misson) who's a legendary NDU record holder and extremely tough instructor who puts recruits through hellish training. Although it's unfair to compare the film to Japan's Umizaru (2004) in terms of the training and the high-budget action sequences, Frogmen's depiction of the NDU lacks of training and simulation underwater in the sea. The exercises shown are mostly running, pushups, crunches and some drills with the boat. The film claims that the NDU is the toughest training camp of all NS in Singapore. I'm not skeptical about that, but the film makes me wonder if this is truly a Naval DIVING Unit, or a Fitness and Boating Unit? Also, none of the unfit characters look fitter at the end, but I guess that's nitpicking.
What I would've named the film: "Ah Boys to Men and Back to Ah Boys Again to be Frogmen Instead"
Malaysia censorship: Some scenes were obviously cut in the previous instalment but at the press screening, I didn't notice any scenes that had any awkward jump. The naked butt of an Ah Boy is pixelised but I believe that's the original edit.
Second opinion: My girlfriend felt that the film is funny but it's not as good as the first two instalments.
Verdict: A shameless reboot with the same actors playing the same roles in a slightly different setting, but it probably has just enough new funny and heartfelt moments to satisfy the fans and general audience in this region.
Rating: 2.5 / 5
Chinese Title: 新兵正传III: 蛙人传
Genre: Action comedy
Running Time: 145 minutes
Director: Jack Neo
Screenwriters: Ivan Ho, Jack Neo
Cast: Wang Wei Liang, Joshua Tan, Maxi Lim, Tosh Zhang, Wesley Wong
Malaysia Release Date: 19 March 2015
Local Distributor: MM2 Entertainment Malaysia
Production: MM2 Entertainment, J Team
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