Sun, 08 Jun 2003

'Kiamat' preachy but surprisingly entertaining

Joko Anwar Contributor Jakarta

-------------------------------------------------------- Kiamat Sudah Dekat (Doomsday is Near) Comedy/Romance, 107 minutes **1/2 (out of ****) Starring Andre Stinky, Deddy Mizwar, Dwiki Reza, Ayu Pratiwi, Dewi Yull Directed by Deddy Mizwar


News of this latest local movie release set off at least two alarm bells.

First, there is the track record of has-been filmmakers trying to make comeback to the big screen. Most of the time they cannot tap into the changing tastes of the audience because they are still stuck in the time warp of yesteryear.

Witness two films -- Joshua Oh Joshua and Bunga, Jangan Ada Dusta (Flower, let there be no lies) -- released in 2001 to capitalize on the success of the children's musical Petualangan Sherina (Sherina's Adventure).

Made by directors popular in the 1980s and early 1990s, they were out of touch and stupid, and bombed at the box office.

Even the commercial success of last year's corny horror film Kafir (Satanic) proved to be a fluke when the next effort by the same team, Peti Mati (The Coffin), showed that predictions of a resurgence in local filmmaking were premature.

And, second, any mention of doomsday in a local film title is bound to leave film-goers, used to the preachy vehicles of the old days, more than a little uneasy.

They still remember the countless "religious action" movies of the early 1980s, in which dangdut singer Rhoma Irama would beat up the bad guys just so he could then give them a verbal walloping on doing the right thing.

There was even a 1991 film featuring preacher Zainuddin M.Z. that left nothing to the imagination in its title, Nada dan Dakwah (Tunes and Preaching)!

Thankfully, the presumptions about Kiamat Sudah Dekat prove wrong.

The movie is unabashedly preachy, of course, but it is also good-natured, unexpectedly entertaining and quite clever.

It marks the big screen feature directorial debut of Deddy Mizwar, a very good actor who starred in many respectable local movies, including arguably the best local comedy ever made, Kejarlah Daku Kau Kutangkap (Chase Me I'll Catch You), in 1985.

Nobody is exactly dying to see his return to the big screen as they can still watch him on numerous TV soaps (and he also appeared in the embarrassing Bunga, Jangan Ada Dusta).

But those who miss the Deddy of old will be delighted to see Kiamat Sudah Dekat, in which he also stars.

Singer Andre Stinky from pop group Stinky is surprisingly well cast as hedonistic rock drummer Fandy, who goes through a life- changing experience after a boy accidentally throws ice cream into his face while he is riding his motorbike.

He stops at a nearby mosque to wash his face, only to find a kid trying to steal his boots outside.

He chases the boy, who runs into a yard where a beautiful young woman (newcomer Ayu Pratiwi) is hanging clothes out to dry.

Thinking the boy is the woman's brother, a smitten Fandy decides to let the kid go. When Fandy makes his interest in her clear, the young woman, who wears a headscarf, immediately rebuffs his advances.

The next day, he returns to the mosque, hoping that the kid will steal another pair of his boots so he can visit the young woman again.

After a few funny moments, he must face the woman's father (Deddy Mizwar) who turns out to be a devoutly religious man. Knowing that a rock musician is after his daughter, who is beginning to return his interest, he lays out several conditions that Fandy must meet before the relationship can take its course.

This simple story is made enjoyable by a funny script and the effort to flesh out the otherwise one-dimensional characters.

Deddy's father is refreshingly funny and witty as he tries to match Fandy's coolness. Talented child actor Dwiki Reza (from the Oreo TV commercial) is also delightful as the kid who steals the boots but ends up becoming the rock drummer's best buddy.

Humor makes up for several lapses into silliness, including one scene where Fandy somehow does not know the difference between a circumcised and uncircumcised penis.

The biggest complaint is that filmmakers put very little effort into the production design. Generic sets make the movie, made for about Rp 1 billion, appear to have the mediocre production values of a TV series.

Shot on digital video, the movie also offers camerawork too lazy to impress the younger generation, though it is still much more appropriate than the overstylization of the latest horror hit, Tusuk Jelangkung.

Plus, the filmmakers simply do not have a sense for good music, and the "rock" songs are unlikely to impress any real rock fan. The score, including the annoying MIDI orchestra, is also undistinguishable from any of that offered by a TV soap.

Fortunately, the filmmakers spend most of the running time focusing on what they know best, with Deddy proving again his skills as a comedian.

That fact alone makes the film far less pretentious and more satisfying than many other local films of recent years.