Augie Fantinus and Julie Estelle in Monty Tiwa's 'Lagi-Lagi Ateng.' (Photo courtesy of 13 Entertainment)

'Lagi-Lagi Ateng': Not a Remake, but a Rip-Off?


JANUARY 16, 2019

Jakarta. It may soon not be funny anymore that classic Indonesian comedies are being "reborn" at an alarming rate. Old plots adapted (or simply adopted?), new actors dressed up to resemble the OGs, all to guarantee bums on seats with something that should really only be attracting canned laughter.

Falcon Pictures kickstarted this "reborn" trend with two remakes of the popular Warkop movies from the 1980s.

In "Warkop DKI Reborn: Jangkrik Boss!" part one and two, the original comic trio Dono, Kasino, Indro (DKI, which also stands for the Special Capital Region of Jakarta) were replaced by Abimana Aryasatya as Dono, Vino G. Bastian as Kasino and Tora Sudiro as Indro.

In another remake by Falcon, current heartthrob Reza Rahadian attempted to play the late, inimitable Benyamin Sueb in "Benyamin Biang Kerok."

Both films were "adaptations" of old titles. "Jangkrik Boss!" is a mashup of several Warkop titles (with "Chips," 1982, taking center stage), while Benyamin Biang Kerok is a reboot of a movie of the same title in 1972.

The three movies did more than well at the box office. The first and second "Jangkrik Boss!" attracted 6 million and 4 million viewers, respectively, and Benyamin attracted 730,000 viewers.

Now 13 Entertainment has jumped on the "reborn" bandwagon by making "Lagi-Lagi Ateng" ("Not Ateng Again"), a sort of homage to the late Andreas Leo Ateng Suripto (née Kho Tjeng Lie) and Iskak Darmo Suwiryo, the legendary odd couple who were part of the Kwartet Jaya comedy troupe famous in the 1970s and 1980s.

The filmmakers have said "Lagi-Lagi Ateng" is not a "reborn," or a remake, but a tribute. The story is supposedly an original one, with Augie Fantinus and Soleh Solihun playing Ateng and Iskak.

What they ended up with was a sort of grown-up rip-off of "The Parent Trap."

In the movie, Ateng lives his life peacefully for years until he finds out he has a twin brother named Agung.

The twins accidentally meet each other in Jakarta while Ateng is on holiday and Agung working as a speaker at a motivational seminar.

What ensues after that is a series of trading places, the twins plotting scheme after scheme to get their parents back together.

This is basically the plot of "The Parent Trap," but the movie continues to amaze you with details eerily similar to those in Nancy Meyers' film.

Just to mention the most obvious example, the twins' sidekicks (Ateng's Iskak and Agung's Cemplon [Julie Estelle]) predictably fall in love just as Chessy (Lisa Ann) and Martin (Simon Kunz) did in "The Parent Trap."

There are also obligatory allusions to old Ateng films in "Lagi-Lagi Ateng." For instance, the scene where Iskak tells a hotel receptionist his ridiculously long name and the fact that he was born on a train. Ateng also wore a T-shirt with a "Godfather" print, an allusion to the 1976 classic, "Ateng the Godfather."

There is also the problem of cliché chracterization. Being a jobless 26-year-old who still owns a race-car bed, Ateng is clearly a child trapped in a man's body. But talking in a little kid's voice, thought it may come off as cute in the beginning, is simply too much aegyo for all concerned.

In old Ateng movies, such as "Ateng Sok Tahu" (1976), we often see Ateng act all innocent. In this one, he shamelessly asks random people for a job and needs Iskak to be by his side to guide him wherever he goes, but at least he still acts like an adult.

In "Lagi-Lagi Ateng," there is no explanation how Ateng acquires his childish mannerisms. Does being pampered by one's parents retard one's personal growth? Or are they just exaggerations to elicit cheap laughs?

Still, Augie deserves praise for his first leading role in a feature. The great chemistry with Soleh’s Iskak, seems to have helped him play the childish Ateng and his twin, the uptight and greedy Agung.

Another question mark follows the fact the movie is G-rated when quite a few of the running jokes contain sexual innuendo.

For example, Ateng has a cow named Susi, that he milks everyday. When he and Agung switch places, Agung is told over and over about Susi without once mentioning that she's a cow, not a woman. Is this kind of joke appropriate for kids? Apparently, our censorship board thinks so.

"Lagi-Lagi Ateng" may be a touching, feel-good family story about the reunion of a family, but though it can argue that it wears its influences proudly on its sleeve, those influences are so heavy that they threaten to sink the film into the realm of pastiche and copycatting. It is not a remake alright, but to call it an original story is quite a bit of a stretch.