BENJAMIN Button, Forrest Gump and Budi Halim are screen heroes with something in common. They were born with gifts, both a blessing and curse, yet they lived life to the fullest. They waltzed through the histories of their countries and were faithful to the women they loved.
Screenwriter Amir Hafizi (Hikayat Merong Mahawangsa, Magika) and KRU brothers Norman, Yusry and Edry introduce viewers to Budi (Remy) in what is touted as the country’s first 3-D musical-movie. It is an epic that pays homage to Benjamin and Forrest, Butterfly Lovers and Hati Malaya.
Our hero is a leapling born in 1896, the year of the Federated Malay States (FMS). His father Halim (Ramli) is a civil servant under resident-general Sir Frank Swettenham.
Budi’s “gift” is that a real year is only three months for his biological clock. He is orphaned in 1941 when his parents Halim and Sakinah (Dian) are killed by the invading Japanese.
He is sent to an orphanage founded by Salam (Nam Ron) where he befriends blind Razak (Izzue). They weave and sell baskets.
On Aug 31, 1957, a mute girl Khadijah (Adleena) joins them. She adores Budi but he falls for Lily Ho (Goh), a student. They meet in the Merdeka Stadium where Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaims Malaya independent. They share a common interest in P. Ramlee music, fireflies and flowers.
Budi and Lily part ways because of her father Ho’s (Chew) objections. She leaves home to become a singer and actress in Georgetown. Budi obtains ownership of his family home and, in 1969, saves Ho’s life.
Moving to Penang, Budi starts a business and is reunited with Razak. With the help of his friend’s grandnephew Johan (Fizz) and grandson Arif (Munif), Budi turns his house into a home for the orphans, managed by Khadijah. Little does Budi know that Lily has always been around him.
Remy (Nur Kasih, Cun, Arjuna) displays a new side, singing a beautiful and moving song, Kelip-Kelip, with the equally talented and stunning Goh. His tall, dark and handsome appearance makes him ideal for Budi, a personification of Malaysia.
Izzue of boy band Forteen and Adleena are the show’s best discoveries. Both carry their roles with distinction.
As Razak, Izzue is unrecognisable and his meticulous preparation, which included studying the blind, shows. Adleena is a natural beauty with a captivating smile and her limited scenes are endearing.
Nur Kasih’s Fizz, BFF’s Munif and veterans Dian, Ramli, Nam Ron and especially Chew are commendable pillars. Chew’s “nasty” roles have coloured Setem, Cinta Kura-Kura and Tanda Putera.
In KRU fashion, the movie has splendid special effects — historical footage merged Forrest Gump-style with Budi and friends. Not unlike P. Ramlee The Musical, it has credits that are very 1960s.
Music director and composer Edry has created three beautiful songs — Kelip-Kelip, Jagalah Diri and Seperti Dulu.
One complaint. The flag at the stadium is supposed to be Malaya’s and neither should there be Sabah and Sarawak flags.
Bloopers aside, 29 Februari is a heart-warming nostalgic odyssey of the nation and a tribute to the spirit of 1Malaysia that deserves a second viewing. Watch out for a cameo appearance by Fauziah Ahmad Daud and Azmil Mustapha.