One is almost inclined to forgive “McDull, Prince de la Bun” if it had been anything other than pretty good. After all, the original was such a good film, and its epic telling of the life and times of one piglet name McDull would seem to make a sequel quite irrelevant. Not so, as “Prince de la Bun” proves to be a winner in many ways. While still retaining its whimsical and funny side, the sequel has also kept the realities of life, but presents it through the faÃ§ade of animation. Somehow, things just seem a lot easier to swallow when it’s animated.
With all the cast and crew back for the second go ’round, it’s easy to see why the film has such a strong continuity with the first. Elementary school student McDull is once again back in action, stumbling through life with his quirky, acid-tongued mother while at the same time trying to uncover answers to why his leg keeps shaking. The school Principal, voiced by Anthony Wong, is no help, and neither is good-natured teacher Miss Chan. And the doctor is too preoccupied with listing all the things he doesn’t do as a general practitioner to be much help. Maybe the answer lies in the story McDull’s mother (voiced by Sandra Ng) tells, about a certain moronic prince who became a moronic bloke…
If you liked “My Life as McDull”, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t love the sequel. If possible, the sequel might just be better than the original in some ways. (Hey, it was possible with “Spider-Man 2”, why can’t it be possible with “McDull”?) With Toe Yuen once again behind the camera (so to speak), and the script by original McDull creators Alice Mak and Brian Tse, there’s no sense that the sequel was made for the sake of making a sequel to a highly popular and commercially successful film. (Although profit was no doubt a major motivation, but I digress.)
In many ways, the story about the prince of buns, which is actually a story about McDull’s father (voiced by, of all people, Andy Lau), helps to solidify our impressions of McDull’s mother. We understand her a lot more, as well as sympathize with the poor woman, whose only hope nowadays seems to be waiting for the urban renewal program to reach her apartment so she can sell out as quickly as possible.
Once more, much is made of the Hong Kong skyline. Buildings topple and crash to the streets in the middle of traffic under the worship of Urban Development, and it’s all done with the kind of elaborate choreography only possible in animation. When the film flashes back to its past, there’s an idyllic feel to the city as it existed once upon a time. Which brings me to the tonal shift in the film, which is not quite as abrupt as was the case with the original. Whereas the original mentioned the death of McDull’s mother as almost a curious passing, the change from a fantastical story about a “moronic bun” that lost his way and became a “moronic bloke” is done with much more maturity, resulting in an easier transition when it becomes obvious that the story about young McDull is actually that of his wayward father.
Not to worry, because the cute factor is still present to gush over. The little creatures that stand in for young children are still cuddly and cute (although curiously there is still no effort to explain why some characters are drawn as animals) . McDull himself hasn’t changed a bit, which seems about right since little time has passed between the sequel and the original. The comedy is still fresh, not to mention riotously funny. Anthony Wong, once again (literally) donning many hats, gets to provoke even more laughter this time around. His scenes with Sandra Ng are just brilliant, and how the two actors can flow with the prodigious dialogue they are given is quite a marvel.
Although its animation seems to be geared towards children, “McDull, Prince de la Bun” can easily be enjoyed by adults. In fact, adults would probably get more out of the films than kids ever could. The scenes with McBing, McDull’s father, in particular are quite heavy at times. A mixture of the fantastical with some grounded storytelling, this interlude into the past is most effective when there is no dialogue. A portrait of a man who can’t face the present much less the future, McBing comes across as a very tragic figure. Equally tragic is McDull’s mother, who has soldier on to raise a son by herself. To see her as the young girl, brimming with life (as well as a mouth that just won’t quit) is quite a departure from the solemn and serious Mrs. McDull that we have come to know.
In a lot of ways, the “McDull” movies remind me of the films of Hayao Miyazaki, whose own films always managed to reveal great humanity underneath its cuddly animals and wild storytelling. Toe Yuen and company have made another terrific film that they can be proud of. It’s not everyday that “cartoons”, if you will, can be this entertaining, funny, and still teach you a lesson or two about being all too human.
Toe Yuen (director) / Alice Mak, Brian Tse (screenplay)
CAST: Jan Lamb …. McDull (Adult) (voice)
Chet Lam …. (voice)
Andy Lau …. McBing, McDull’s father (voice)
Sandra Ng Kwan Yue …. Mrs. Mc (voice)
Anthony Wong Chau-Sang …. Principal (voice)