Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Babe, I Love You - Bland Formula Flick Hits Box Office Gold

In the last few years, Star Cinema has suffered stark gauntness in their materials. Their films have become extensively hyped but emaciated drivels that somehow inspire dejavus - you've seen them before, but they're peopled by different actors! Mae Cruz's "Babe, I Love You" is no different!

Anne Curtis is promo girl Sasa Sanchez (referenced to KC Concepcion's "promodizer" in "When I Met You"), a peculiar character who has no qualms making a scene in front of a congested university. She meets eternally brooding Nico Ibarra (Sam Milby), a brilliant architecture professor who's a shoo in for his university's vice dean position! One fateful night, Sasa witnesses Nico's run in with some thugs. She maneuvers her car towards Nico's assailants - and the rest, as they say is history!

This movie shamelessly adheres to a very basic Star-Cinema-formula that could be divided into 4 chapters:

Chapter 1 - boy meets girl

Pretty poor girl Sasa meets rich and pretty boy, albeit tortured soul Nico. He seems to dislike her but we see him constantly making reasons to see her! That he is an ambulatory guilt-tripper is thus an understatement!

Chapter 2 - they either constantly bicker or constantly enjoy sappy moments, a process that leads to a relationship

The first one exactly fits the bill. Guilt-ridden Nico offers to drive her around while she recuperates from her whiplash injury brought on by his encounter with the baddies. He even drives her for a fly-by-night beauty pageant in Zambales! I didn't realize it was a lot easier to drive around someone you loath than just pay her up to get rid of her!

Chapter 3 - they separate: this is the part where all those memorable kilometric lines are dropped like bombs in Pearl Harbor!

While Nico is slowly forsaking his work over her activities, he then learns of her past indiscretions. At a family dinner where Sasa is invited, we bear witness to Sasa's ultimate embarrassment when - aw, shucks! - she encounters the wife and duaghter of a married man (Ricardo Cepeda) she's had an affair with! And they happened to be Nico's family's close relations! How convenient, right? Such dramatic coincidences write itself into the story! Phew! Nico confronts Sasa, and they spend their time apart from each other!

Subchapter: This is the narrative's version of a song's coda where each of their family members console the inconsolable. She gets a heart-to-heart with her mama; he gets a dramatic moment with his mom or dad. (Referenced to Gerald Anderson and Zsa zsa Padilla's heartwarming moment in the moronic "Paano Na Kaya".)

Chapter 4 - epilogue to happily ever after (a week later, 2 years after, 25 years later, and so on...)

One year after they separate, we see the lovely Sasa make sawsaw a stick of qwekqwek somewhere in the vicinity of Morayta. Nico drives by and spots the woman of his dreams, the same woman just a year ago he accused of being untrustworthy! In true Star Cinema fashion, Nico turns the wheel over to his friend Guji Lorenzana. He then stands amidst human traffic, never even bothering to first cross the street which, if you've been there, you would know that it won't take him 5 steps to do so - and then he is beside Sasa who is immobile, busy with her qwekqwek-dunking techniques!

But no! It should be cinematic! Nico has to shout above all the noise to get her attention! She turns around. The music swells! The crowd is otherwise oblivious to all the romantic shenanigans happening around! She beams her Diosa smile, he unfolds his CloseUp grin! He crosses the street and they catch-up as though he was never an accusatory dick of universal proportions, and as though she was never a concubine! Life is easy in this vast universe called Star Cinema! End credits roll! Aww, I feel better already. At least they only had to contend with 1 year, unlike Bea and John Lloyd who did 5 years worth of Noel Trinidad psychic meddling!

Now, use this formula and get back to Star Cinema's filmography in the last two years - and I am pretty sure you can apply the aforementioned formula in most of their romantic comedies!

It's hard to find fault when you have a very likable and charming actress like Anne Curtis! She is extremely easy on the eyes; she's perky and healthy, a bundle of sunshine, and she possesses a sincere smile that warms your heart. But it also underlines the incontrovertible - she isn't quite in the league of Angelica Panganiban or Bea Alonzo! Not yet, anyway! Not where emotions are mined! But she is undoubtedly a star! She's never awkward or mediocre, but she probably needs a heartache that's more gut-wrenching than Sam Milby to acquire a bit more gravitas to make an unforgettable romantic heroine! Her undeniably delightful take as Sasa Sanchez is easily forgettable in a few month's time! Having said this, I can't wait to see her in a role that's worth more than a decade of her showbiz career!

Sam Milby, on the other hand is robotic at best! He has mastered this type of fury-inside characterization that has defined him in teleseryes like "Maging Sino Ka Man" and "Only You". In his confrontation with Anne ("I just can't trust you..."), he grapples with his paragraphs, dividing them in grouped phrases while he tries hard to enunciate with heavy syllabic cadence. It was painful listening to him! Aside from this, Sam's characterization is heavily flawed! Sure, such flawed characters make nonpareil cinematic heroes, but there has to be logical lucidity to such shortcomings. Take for example, when he gets a call about Sasa's arrest (he has to bail her out of jail), he could have sent his friend Guji while he finishes his academic presentation, couldn't he? After which, he can follow. Why would you jeopardize a career-making appointment over something that could be taken cared of later? For someone who's supposed to be brilliant, Nico moves around like a dumb jock.

It is hard to pick brilliant moments here. When the movie starts, the screen opens with a dark and fuzzy scene, I actually though "ah, flashback scene siguro". Lo and behold, it wasn't a flashback scene. Then we see Guji Lorenzana calling Sam to join them at the dance floor - and he was out of sync! These days, not only is Star Cinema churning out retreads, they have compromised technical quality too! There was a time when each of their movies was, at the very least, technically superior - with glossy cinematography, great production design, musical scores that help move their stories, etc. Obviously, those were days gone by.

In the movie, Nico's relationship with his mother (Laurice Guillen- who looked constipated and morose 98% of the time - the other 2% she spent looking dazed and busy enumerating lists of "original copy" of books - Considering how brilliant she was as Cory Aquino in "A Dangerous Life", what a waste) is strained after an unfortunate accident that killed his father! When Nico loses the position as vice dean of the university, she joins Nico at the patio and we are taken back to Gerald Anderson and Zsa Zsa Padilla's mother-son bonding scene in "Paano Na Kaya"- one of the very few positive points in the brain-dead Kim Chiu starrer! Yes, Jose, we've seen it just a few months back - and we are seeing it again with a different Fil-Am actor!

Now, the title: Why "Babe, I Love You"? This puzzles me. One, the song isn't even popular with the current generation. Two, I am not aware that the characters call each other "babe" even as a term of endearment. Three, Piolo Pascual's version is karaoke-quality warbling at best! Gesh, whoever gave Papa P the illusion that he will ever be taken seriously as an excellent singer should be taken to the gallows! Off with their heads! Pronto! Papa P is such a cutie pie, but he will never qualify as a world-class singer. Never! His vocal quality just doesn't suffice, unless you're deaf! Or maybe you equate "gorgeous male species" with "great singer" - which should naturally make you an idiot, doesn't it? The only barely-acceptable song from his "Decades" album is "Can't Take My Eyes Off You" - and it's mainly due to the finger-snapping arrangement! THAT could have been a more appropriate title! Fourth, never make remakes that's inferior from the original. Styx can vocally run rings around gorgeous Papa P so this was a really bad idea!

The good news from all these, which would probably cancel out all of my observations is: that this movie is raking moolah at the box office! I guess that's what matters to Star Cinema. Forget giving the people fresh cinema because idiots queue at the tills to watch retreads like "Babe, I Love You" anyway! Yes, I watched the film when it opened Saturday. Despite the early 2nd screening, SM Megamall's theater was almost full! Consider that they had 2 cinemas showing "Babe, I Love You". This has triple the crowd that I've seen in movies that were hailed as "breaking box office records on their first day" - like "For The First Time" (which had a crowd of 10 when I saw it), "Love Me Again" (which had a crowd of 12), "Paano Na Kaya" (which had a crowd of 15) and "BFF" (which had a crowd of 4)!

As the credits rolled when the movie ended, I noticed a growing list of Script Consultants. Wow, it takes all these people to tweedle-and-tweak a movie like this? My maid can write a story as mediocre as this one - easily, and she gets minimum wage! I should recommend my maid to Star Cinema - she is after all, cheap labor!

Congratulations for such a successful generic movie!

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