A whole lot of positive thinking is needed to get through Upin & Ipin Jeng Jeng Jeng. Find enough of an excuse for the tiniest detail and it all becomes believable. The film depicts the relationship between outgoing orphan girl Aqish (Puteri Balqis) and five-year-old twin boys Upin and Ipin (voiced by Asyiela Putri).

For the uninitiated, Upin and Ipin are hugely popular local cartoon characters famous for the tagline “Betul, betul, betul” (correct, correct, correct). They hold to good values like respecting elders (shout-out to Opah), honesty and harmonious living. Despite being orphans themselves, Upin (the older twin, with hair) and Ipin maintain a cheerful attitude throughout the series.

When Aqish learns that her orphanage is facing closure, she fears a life without her friends and caretaker Noreen (Sara Ali). So she calls for her favourite cartoon characters Upin and Ipin to appear and talk to her. Through the power of her imagination and some stardust, Upin and Ipin come to life as their animated selves in Aqish’s three-­dimensional world. They make her laugh and vow to help ease her worries.

Perhaps as a perceptive nod to older viewers, the movie acknowledges that it seems strange for Aqish to be seen talking to Upin and Ipin when actually, she is having a conversation all on her own. The other children in the film notice that Aqish is talking to herself and for a moment, you wonder if the film will start to explore Aqish’s mental state. But it’s all forgotten when a more discerning child says: “Well… she IS the biggest Upin & Ipin fan ever. Just let her be.”

The movie also introduces struggling rocker Awie (why yes, Awie plays a version of himself) as the comic relief turned hero. He wants to record a new album but his producer Lavid (David Teo) would only agree to fund his project if he “sells out”.

When Lavid shows him the kind of flashy pop music that he has to perform, Awie says: “Ini semua poyo!” (This is all fake!) For some reason, the kids in the cinema really cracked up whenever Awie said that line … which was quite often.

Awie refuses, so he becomes homeless and finds refuge at Aqish’s orphanage. Later, he agrees to help Aqish raise the money to save the orphanage. So he accepts Lavid’s offer to record the music he so disdained in the first place. He has to sell out for the greater good.

Gosh, I didn’t think Upin & Ipin Jeng Jeng Jeng would have a devastatingly realistic tale about forsaking one’s own self-worth for money. They could have called this movie Upin & Ipin Jagat instead.

I could feel the message being referenced through the movie. The movie shamelessly plugs its own merchandise and sponsors. Aqish gets an Upin & Ipin bracelet for her birthday and brushes her teeth with Upin & Ipin toothpaste. In another scene, we see Upin and Ipin raving about their chocolate and strawberry-flavoured raisins, a product by the film’s main sponsor. I could only tell my horrified self that hey, without the sponsors, the kids wouldn’t have this Upin & Ipin movie. It’s for the greater good. Rinse and repeat.

For what it’s worth, the filmmakers put the multi-million-ringgit budget to good use by creating a bright and colourful movie.

The interaction between Aqish and Upin and Ipin is believable. Upin and Ipin are really the stars of the show with their well-intentioned antics and sincere drive to help Aqish.

Plus, there’s a fun performance with a catchy song to look forward to at the end. For the older viewers, well, think of the children and repeat “correct” three times.

Upin & Ipin Jeng Jeng Jeng

Directors: Hajah Ainon, Erma Fatima

Cast: Puteri Balqis, Asyiela Putri (voice), Awie, Sara Ali, Gambit Saifullah, Remy Ishak, David Teo, Rahim Razali

Jeng Jeng jeng

Upin and Ipin telling Aqish the first rule of Fight Club. Photos: Les Copaque Production