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Money No Enough

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Money No Enough
Money No Enough VCD cover.jpg
VCD cover for Money No Enough
Directed by Tay Teck Lock
Produced by J.P. Tan
Written by Jack Neo
Cinematography Kamis Bin Huri
Edited by A. Supranamian
Distributed by Shaw Organisation
Release date
  • 7 May 1998 (1998-05-07)
Running time
98 minutes
Country Singapore
Language Hokkien

Money No Enough (Chinese: 钱不够用; pinyin: Qián Bǔgòu Yòng) is a 1998 Singaporean comedy film about three friends with financial problems who start a car polishing business together. Original story by J P Tan and written by Jack Neo, directed by Tay Teck Lock and produced by JSP Films, the movie stars Neo, Mark Lee and Henry Thia. Released in cinemas on 7 May 1998 and 18 April 2008 Money No Enough received mixed reviews from critics, but earned over S$5.8 million and was the all-time highest-grossing Singaporean film until 2012. Its success helped revive the Singaporean film industry and pave the way for the emergence of other Singaporean cultural phenomena.


The plot revolves around the lives of three close friends: Keong (Jack Neo), a spendthrift white-collar worker, Ong (Mark Lee), a general contractor, and Hui (Henry Thia), a kopi tiam waiter. After an argument with his boss (Chen Zhao Jin), Keong quits his job and is unable to get another due to his poor command of English, lack of academic qualifications and computer illiteracy. With bills (especially instalments) to pay and a family to support, he goes heavily into debt whereupon his wife leaves him, taking their daughter with her. Ong borrows S$40,000 from loan sharks, and plans to repay them after collecting a debt owed him by a friend who subsequently runs away. The loan sharks beat up Ong for not repaying the loan within the two-week deadline, so he flees to Johor Bahru. Hui, who is single and lives with his elderly mother, wastes his meagre salary on 4D and pursuing an insurance agent who he has a crush on.

In an attempt to resolve their financial problems, the three friends decide to start a car polishing business together with the limited capital they have. However, at the opening ceremony of their business, Hui's mother collapses and is taken to hospital, where she is diagnosed with leukaemia. Hui has three wealthy older sisters, but they refuse to help pay the medical bills, and his application for financial assistance is rejected because of his sisters' high incomes. To compound matters, the loan sharks show up at the company to harass Ong. Ong and Hui ask to cash out their shares so they can pay the loan sharks and medical bills respectively, but all their money has already been spent on equipment and other business running costs. Hui's mother then dies and at her wake, which raises ten thousand dollars of 'bai jin' (contributions toward funeral expenses). The loan sharks turn up, pursue Ong and are arrested after a lengthy police chase. Keong convinces his wife and daughter to enter an obstacle race where they win the first prize of S$100,000, which he uses to pay his creditors, and his family is reunited. The car polishing business is successful, and the three friends go on to become the directors of Autoglym Singapore.


In the 1990s, Neo, Lee and Thia became well known in Singapore for their performances in the Channel 8 television show Comedy Night (Wade-Giles: Kao hsiao hsin tung).[1] Neo then acted in the 1997 Eric Khoo film 12 Storeys, and saw potential in the then virtually nonexistent local film industry.[2] He wrote a screenplay about expatriates in the advertising industry, but decided the concept would not appeal to most Singaporeans, so he thought of writing a story about Ah Bengs (uneducated Chinese men), drawing on the humble backgrounds of Lee, Thia and himself.[3] Inspired, he contacted Tay Teck Lock, a former producer for Channel 8, and suggested they collaborate. They decided on a plot about three Singaporean men facing financial difficulties. Neo spent eight months writing the script, while Tay helped develop the characters and jokes.[4] Despite the Speak Mandarin Campaign, Neo chose to use Hokkien dialogue to "reflect real life" and "reach a different audience".[3][5]

Money No Enough was produced by JSP Films on a budget of S$850,000.[6] The production crew included Deri Ng as first assistant director, J.P. Tan as producer, Kamis as cinematographer, A. Supranamian as film editor, Anthony Ng as art director and Abdul Shukar Mohd as sound designer.[7] Filming was plagued by financial problems, such as poor quality shooting equipment. After the Board of Film Censors reviewed and approved Money No Enough,[3][5] distributor Shaw Organisation released the film on 21 screens on 7 May 1998 and 18 April 2008.[5][7][8] The success of the movie led to a dispute between Neo and Producer over their shares of the profits.[9] To mark its tenth anniversary, Money No Enough was released in cinemas again and was followed by a sequel, Money No Enough 2.[4]


Money No Enough earned S$50,000 from sneak previews and S$42,000 on its opening day,[8] then topped the local box office for a month.[5] In total, the film made S$5.8 million,[10] which remained the best box-office showing by a local movie until the record was broken by Ah Boys to Men in 2012. After its box office run, 70,000 VCDs of Money No Enough were sold, which remains a record for a Singaporean film.[10] Its success sparked the film career of Jack Neo, who won the Best Director Award at the 1998 Silver Screen Awards,[2] and the development of the Singaporean film industry. Four more Singaporean movies were produced in 1998, two of which were described by critics as copycats of Money No Enough.[11] With its use of Hokkien and crude portrayal of Singaporean life, the film is also credited with paving the way for other Singaporean cultural phenomena such as mrbrown and TalkingCock.[12]

The movie received a mixed critical reception with commending the film as "an effective satire of...Singaporean culture" and noted that the actors "do a credible job representing characters from Singapore's varying social strata",[13] while a Variety review described the movie as "initially fresh and amusing but ultimately too one-note and local in its humor to travel far".[14] Francis Dass of the New Straits Times wrote that Money No Enough was "spot-on" and "funny", but criticised the "clichéd script and the director's penchant for melodrama".[15]


  1. ^ Teo Pau Lin, "Underdogs now roar with success", The Sunday Times, 24 May 1998.
  2. ^ a b Karl Ho, "Jack Neo's touch of class", The Straits Times, 31 January 2002.
  3. ^ a b c "Borrow from Ah Long?", The Straits Times, 7 May 1998.
  4. ^ a b Mak Mun San, "Life after Money No Enough", The Sunday Times, 11 May 2008.
  5. ^ a b c d Andrea Hamliton, "The Money Pours In", Asiaweek, 26 June 1998.
  6. ^ "$2m record for Money No Enough", The Straits Times, 26 May 1998.
  7. ^ a b "Rui Bo Gao Eng - Cast and Crew", Allrovi. Last accessed 31 July 2011.
  8. ^ a b Ong Sor Fern, "Delirious over Teenage sale", The Straits Times, 26 November 1998.
  9. ^ "Staying alive", The Business Times, 15 August 1998.
  10. ^ a b Camilla Chiam, "Two Jack Neo movies slug it out", The Straits Times, 12 June 2002.
  11. ^ Kelvin Tong, "Market here no enough", The Straits Times, 18 September 1999.
  12. ^ John Lui, "Enough already", The Straits Times, 30 July 2008.
  13. ^ "Money No Enough (SINGAPORE 1998)", Last accessed 31 July 2011.
  14. ^ "Elley, Derek. Money No Enough Review", Variety. Last accessed 31 July 2011.
  15. ^ Francis Dass, "Comedians are right on the money", The New Straits Times, 24 August 1998.

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