Vice Ganda has transcended barriers that were never crossed before. You see, the Philippine society, more specifically its male population is still, on the whole, homophobic. Sure, they'd laugh at gay impersonators and gay comedians, but they will never admit appreciation nor hold a high opinion of them. Once these performers turn their backs, they are discussed with a degree of derision, an amount of ridicule, and are reduced to side shows. Vice Ganda has changed that.
My ex-bf represents a good cross section of this happy-go-lucky, subconsciously homophobic Pinoy male population. He would sit back, wide eyed, intent on catching Vice Ganda's brisk puns on television; and I've never heard him refer to Vice as "yung bading" the way he does my friend Kyle (who dresses like a man, and acts like a man, unlike Vice who cross-dresses!)
Does this charm translate well in Vice Ganda's first starring role - Wenn Deramas' "Petrang Kabayo"?
Yes and no!
Peter (Vice Ganda/Makisig Morales) grew up with an abusive family. While trying to escape from his father (John Arcilla), he strikes gold when a rich spinster (Eugene Domingo) finds and adopts him. But instead of growing up generous and charitable, Peter is bitter, mean and acid-tongued. When his "mother" passed away, he acquires her riches, wrecking havoc on the people who work for him. But this is obviously a modern fairy tale where a fairy godmother turns out to be another cross-dressing, manga-inspired judge-and-jury.
Whenever Peter strays from the path of "righteousness", Peter transforms into a horse. And the only thing that can break the spell is the kiss of a gentleman who has professed his love for the horse! Are you happy with this magical parable so far?
The movie is littered with slapstick scenes that typify a Wenn Deramas movie - brisk-paced, superficial scenarios that don't quite leave an imprint way after you've left the theater. Without Vice Ganda, the movie would have fallen flat as a pancake. Despite that, Ganda's delivery is as "crunchy" as a well-fried bacon. Unfortunately, his wit is dependent on his spontaneous comebacks, something that is compromised on a dry-and-dead script. There are glaring inconsistencies: In some scenes, the horse would transform back to the human Peter buck naked; in other scenes, he is transformed back fully clothed. Someone needs to brush up on his narrative consistency.
Luis Manzano is turning out to be a very able comic actor. To be honest about it, I am never fond of Luis. His TV persona feels too "manicured" and even his delivery sounds too perturbingly "kolehiyala". But there's been a slew of movies where Luis transforms himself into a luminously affable cinematic actor. On the big screen, Luis becomes self-deprecating. His seemingly bland TV personality magically turns into a charming leading man. He's never looked so guapo. This is evident in movies like "Hating Kapatid" where Manzano's comic timing was impeccable.
Tom Rodriguez is such a dashing presence, I honestly wouldn't mind just staring at him for 1 1/2 hours! Unfortunately, his role is basically disposable, but he doesn't fail to leave an impression. Now "that" is a "movie star"!
I do have laugh-out-loud moments: When Peter decides to adopt his younger sister Pauline (Abby Bautista), the latter takes on the mean-spirited Peter mano-a-mano with her "Dahil maganda ako!" - a feat delivered with such dedication and convivial hilarity!
The film boasts of several cameos: Anne Curtis (who rides Luis' calesa); John Lapus, Gladys Reyes, Melason's Jason Francisco (as a cute waiter); and even a protracted cameo by Eugene Domingo as Peter's adoptive mother Donya Biday.
There are surprisingly impressive CG effects here, as well as occasionally great cinematography (though inconsistent). Sam Pinto is as bland as she is on TV. She delivers with the intuitive sincerity of a shoe brush. This is not a great news since Ms. Pinto is truly one of the most beautiful faces we've seen on Philippine TV.
With Vice Ganda's quick wit and smart alecky demeanor, the movie intermittently soars into moments of inspiration. But they are rather fleeting. Other times, it left me yawning with unequivocal ennui.