In this sequel to 2016’s The Kid from the Big Apple, Sarah (Tan Qin Lin) and her mother, Sophia (Debbie Goh) return to their hometown in Kuala Lumpur to stay with Lin (Tommy Tam) in a newly-bought condominium. However, things about to become different when Lin suffers from dementia.
Jess Teong’s directorial debut in last year’s The Kid from the Big Apple, a financially-successful local movie which received numerous awards at the Macau International Movie Festival and Malaysian Film Festival, was both wonderful and heartfelt cross-generational family drama anchored by Tommy Tam (better known as Ti Lung for most HK movie fans) and relative newcomer Tan Qin Lin. It’s the kind of movie that best seen as a one-off. Besides, The Kid from the Big Apple actually wrapped up beautifully that it doesn’t really need a sequel.
And yet, here we are: An unlikely sequel that quickly arrived just over a year later after the first movie. In the beginning, I thought the sequel was made in order to capitalise the success of the first movie (read: cash grab). But instead of repeating the same story seen in the first movie, writer-director Teong chose to explore different angles by focusing more on Lin while expanding the previously-cameo role of Sophia (Debbie Goh, replacing Jessica Hsuan in the original) into a significant character. Even some of the supporting and minor roles such as Kelvin Leong’s Uncle Meng and Lenna Lim’s Ivy are given ample rooms as well. It was actually a good move as returning screenwriter and director Jess Teong also touches on relevant thematic issues that include Lin’s personal struggles over dementia as well as the act of forgiveness involving Sophia’s estranged relationship with her ex-boyfriend, Hao Nan (played Ti Lung’s son, Shaun Tam).
While I admire Teong’s ambition for juggling multiple characters than she did the first time around, the result isn’t as entirely successful as I expected. The reason why the first movie worked so well was due to the primary focus on the love-hate relationship between Tan Qin Lin’s Sarah and Tommy Tam’s Lin. Unfortunately, the sequel tries to be everything at once. Sure, there are movies which can handle an ensemble cast with multiple strands of storylines fit nicely together. But The Kid from the Big Apple 2: Before We Forget isn’t one of them. Over the course of the movie, this sequel contains enough different story arcs to form one season of a TV series. The only difference is that these stories are crammed altogether to fit the 2-hour time frame. Frankly, it would have worked better if the sequel is actually conceived as a TV series instead.
Then, there’s the over-reliance on the soundtrack that desperately wanted to evoke emotional responses during some of the tearjerking moments. At times, it almost feels like watching a mawkish 80s or 90s melodrama filled with song montage. Another glaring flaw is some of the scenes could have trimmed down to help tighten the pace. For instance, Ivy’s wedding scene feels unnecessarily long-winded. Such an extended wedding scene would have made better sense as one of the episodes in a TV series.
Still, The Kid from the Big Apple 2: Before We Forget remains a worthwhile family drama. The biggest saving grace here is the cast. Tommy Tam gives another poignant performance as Lin, while Debbie Goh proves to be a worthy replacement as Sophia. Tan Qin Lin, who made such a lasting impression as the rebellious yet delightful performance as Sarah in the first movie, is decent enough in her otherwise reduced role this time around. The rest of the cast including Kelvin Leong, Ling Tang as Aunty Meng as well as Jason Tan as Sarah’s best friend, Zhang Jia Bao and Shaun Tam all deliver solid supports on their respective roles.