Film / I Not Stupid

I Not Stupid is a satirical film directed by Jack Neo that premiered in 2002 and touches upon several aspects of Singaporean society, primarily "streaming" in the education system and its impact on both the unfortunate children and their families.

The story follows three children in Primary 6 [sixth grade]: Terry Khoo, Liu Kok Pin and Ang Boon Hock, who have been placed in the EM3 stream. Because EM3 is seen, perhaps rightly, as a dumping ground for the lowest academic performers, the three are constantly belittled by their peers and by society in general. From the very beginning, the film shows the consequences of being placed in EM3. Their word is not as good as that of their classmates or their classmates' parents. Their home lives suffer as their parents become frustrated by their inability to help their children. One teacher after another gives up on the so-called "lost cause" students.

Although academic streaming is a major element of the movie, it is also used as a vehicle to touch upon other general social issues, such as excessive deference to authority and the fundamental breakdown in communication between parents and children. I Not Stupid became the third-highest grossing film in Singapore, behind two of Jack Neo's other films: Money No Enough and the sequel, I Not Stupid Too. It was eventually adapted into a TV series that expanded on some of the issues covered in the original, though Jack Neo played a smaller role in its production.

Contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: The television series. Most notably, it tries to show that Kok Pin's mother was not being needlessly cruel but was under a considerable amount of pressure from wanting her son to do well and having been passed over for promotion by a younger colleague with a degree.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall
  • Catch Phrase: "Don't you know how lucky you are to have such good and responsible parents?"
  • Don't Make Me Take My Belt Off: Acting on advice from her colleagues, Mrs. Liu starts caning her son. He does a good job of making it look incredibly painful (which it is).
  • Extreme Doormat: Terry, and this is actively encouraged by his mother, who tells him to do things like "let the maid do everything" and "mind your own business, it doesn't concern you".
  • Gilligan Cut: When the EM3 homeroom teacher is lecturing on the importance of learning Chinese in Singapore, suddenly we get treated to a gentleman talking about how it isn't actually necessary to succeed in life.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Terry's parents arrive to collect their daughter from the police station.
  • Interrupted Suicide
  • The Red Stapler: The movie lead to a Parliamentary debate and eventually lead to changes in Singapore's education system (at least, in theory).
  • Self-Deprecation: Catching fish in Singapore is hard, because Singaporean fish are like Singaporeans themselves: They never open their mouths!
  • Surprisingly Good English: Justified, as Singapore is a bilingual country and many Singaporeans are fluent in English.
  • Take That: Terry's mother is a thinly-veiled, but affectionate shot at the Singaporean government.
  • Take That, Audience!: At the beginning and end of the film.