While I’ve never considered myself a big fan of animation, I certainly admire the craft itself; the best ones, whether they be the work of Miyazaki or Pixar, can be appreciated as much more than just ‘light entertainment’. I was drawn to ‘My Life As McDull’ for the aforementioned reason and the simple fact that animated features in Hong Kong are so rare that they tend to induce curiosity.
McDull is a young pig growing up in Hong Kong with his strong-minded, yet adoring mother. Resigned to not being especially intelligent and certain he looks nothing like Chow Yun Fat, McDull is content with his humble life in the crowded city. However, the young swine has dreams of going to The Maldives one day, imagining that it is the perfect antidote to the hectic life in the metropolis. While this alone seems an impossible dream, McDull also contemplates the possibility of one day representing Hong Kong at the Olympics and making his mother proud. All these sweet daydreams of youth help ease him through the rigours of life and give him the strength to cope with inevitable tragedies.
Like so many films that tug on the heart-strings, the simple synopsis of ‘My Life As McDull’ fails to do the overall beauty of the production justice. The strength of this animated feature is based more around the power of its visuals and its heartfelt sentiments than the straight-forward storyline that acts as the spine. Alice Mak’s stunning animation combines exquisite 2D characters with a realistic 3D Hong Kong cityscape, thus giving her work a real resonance; with a vague hint of the work of Raymond Briggs, Mak’s eye for detail lifts the visuals to an impressive level. In addition to this, there is also a superb soundtrack to add another layer of wonder to the finished product.
‘My Life As McDull’ is blessed with the vocal talents of performers like Anthony Wong, Sandra Ng and Hong Kong comedic songstress ‘The Pancakes’. Their contribution is welcome as is the obvious respect they have for this production. Nevertheless, ‘My Life As McDull’ is successful because of its touching themes rather than the vocal talents on hand. The familiar ideas of the innocence of childhood and its admirable wonder at the world around forms the film’s main thread, with the execution of these ideals proving to be a major part its triumph (added to the fact that McDull is a very lovable central character). Interestingly, the last ten minutes or so give way to a very philosophical denouement that once again demonstrates the ability that quality Hong Kong cinema has of changing moods instantly. Animation may still prove to be an acquired taste for some while Hong Kong animation may prove even more so, but ‘My Life As McDull’ is recommended to young and old alike.