Film / I Not Stupid

I Not Stupid is a satirical film directed by Jack Neo (who also played a role) 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, as it's in hour-long episodes instead of a single hour-and-a-half feature. 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.
  • Bilingual Bonus: It's a Singaporean film, so expect Mandarin, English, and a dash of dialects here and there.
    • The drama averts this by being completely in Mandarin.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: Terry in the end of the movie, echoing the beginning.
  • Catch Phrase:
    • "Don't you know how lucky you are to have such good and responsible parents?"
    • "Everything we do is for your own good."
    • "Wow, you're really obedient!"
  • Character Development: Terry has the greatest out of the trio. From an obedient, selfish boy to a selfless kid who even saved a life.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: A Chinese worker under Mr Khoo does not get the raise he wanted. Guess who kidnaps Terry midway through the film?
  • Chekhov's Skill: Kok Pin's drawing skills is something to speak of. While Mrs. Liu doesn't appreciate it at first, after helping the police catch a kidnapper whom he has seen the face of, as well as winning a drawing contest, it's hard not for her to be proud.
  • 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 "let the maid do everything" and "mind your own business, it doesn't concern you". He grows out of that, though, and eventually donates his bone marrow to Mrs Liu after convincing his mother that they cannot afford to be very selfish.
  • Gilligan Cut: When the EM3 homeroom teacher is lecturing on the importance of learning Chinese in Singapore, suddenly we get treated to Mr. Liu's boss talking about how it isn't actually necessary to succeed in life.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Terry's parents arrive to collect Selena from the police station. Paired with Mood Whiplash, because at the same time the Lius come and pick up their son.
  • Interrupted Suicide: Kok Pin attempts to jump off a high-rise flat after flunking another test when Selena and her friends are evading police capture.
  • Large Ham: Terry's father. He rarely speaks mildly.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Nah, that's not Jackie Chan attending the barbequed meat repackaging promotion. They dressed up an actor to look like him.
  • Product Placement: "I want to drink Pink Dolphin Calcium!"
  • 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.
    • John, the American, is one for professional foreign talent, especially when it comes to Oriental culture. Using strippers to promote barbequed pork slices? Not the brightest of ideas.
  • Take That, Audience!: At the beginning and end of the film.