"Pak!" I often hear this every time K Brosas does her judging spiel at a weekend talent show, and I have wondered why she does this. It's meaningless. There isn't anything funny about it either. The delivery, done in staccato fashion, has this irritating resonance. Who finds amity in the sound of swatting flies?
Such word play in the title largely reflects the content or essence in Tony Y. Reyes' "Pak! Pak! My Dr. Kwak!" where for the most part, the working gags have been used since the Pleistocene Period when dinosaurs dominated the food chain. But they had a good excuse for such imbecilic undertakings - they only had lint-produced fire and stones to work with. My friend Iya asked me, "What do you expect in a Vic Sotto film?" This was of course pure rhetoric.
FOUR FILM OUTFITS
That this film is a co-production of 4 film outfits (Sotto's Mzet, Ilacad's Octo-Arts, Tuviera's APT, and ABS-CBN's Star Cinema) further highlights the priority and mindset of the current crop of mainstream film makers, and if this isn't the proverbial "dumbing down" in Philippine Cinema, I don't know what is.
When mischievous angel Angelito (Zaijian Jaranilla) disrupts operations of the Heaven's "Matching Machine", the playful tyke is sent to Earth for a life-affirming mission that involves a con artist named Angelo (Vic Sotto) who, along with his crew, operates as a faith healer. His healing sessions include staged miracles and the requisite "optional donations". But when one of his "patients", Mang Gary (Gary Lising) falls ill after drinking one of Angelo's potions, concerned physician Cielo de los Santos (Bea Alonzo) feels compelled to look into the matter. Little did she realize that these were the same people who almost run her over.
When Cielo confronts Angelo, he vehemently denies the ruse. Enter Angelo's assistants, Phil and James (Jose Manalo and Wally Bayola) who bumped a child on the road - the now-human Angelito. The child appears lifeless so the cavillous Cielo chides at the dumb-founded quack, "Sige nga, pagalingin mo nga sya!" Left without an option, Angelo takes the child and does his mumbo jumbo, and voila! The fallen child comes back to life - conveniently with a good audience as witnesses. Since then, Angelo has taken Angelito as his own, and they have become healing partners. Cielo has gradually warmed up to the "arbularyo's charm". In fact, they turn into a fetching couple along with Angelito and Macy (Cielo's little sister, played by Xyriel Manabat).
FROM HEEL TO HERO
Like the easy resolutions that Filipino movies are known for, Angelo has organized "medical missions" and even sought the assistance of Cielo for such noble undertaking. At this point, I was stifling a vomit, for how can a quack suddenly turn 180 degrees and donate all his "earnings" (P100,000) to a children's orphanage? There is no subtle character progression. Angelo snaps his finger and turns from heel to hero!
There are a hundred issues concerning logic so we are going to point out a few for the sake of discussion. That Cielo, a GP who does cardio-thoracic surgeries (wink, wink), openly endorses a person whom she knew hasn't had a single day in medical school constitutes grave impediment to her Hippocratic Oath. She even covers for his misdeeds, "He practices alternative medicine," she reasons. But even such practitioners have to have adequate training. Or did she forget that Mang Gary caught amebiasis from one of Angelo's concoctions?
FARTS AND DIARRHEA
Humor in this movie takes the form of fart jokes, diarrheic explosions and assault of physical imperfections, you would think that we're back in the 60's when slapstick physical comedy were the norm. When another patient complains of diarrhea (again), he was asked: "Umeebak ka ba ng dugo? O dumudugo ka ng ebak?" In another scene, Cielo was told, "No ispik because the pipol has ispiken!" Huh? Someone actually thought that line was funny?
When Angelo visits Cielo home, he meets a hostile mother (Dexter Doria) who tells him, "O wag ka na umupo!" which was replied with "Lumuhod pwede?" When Mang Gary complains of abdominal discomfort, Angelo replies with a curt, "I-jerbaks mo lang yan" which then incites a wad of passing gas. This is the heir to Dolphy's throne. How sophisticated, right?
In typical Vic Sotto fashion, the story propagates the myth that "Bossing" is drop-dead gorgeous, girls forget themselves when they see him. And Cielo becomes guinea pig to test out his charisma. Every time Cielo and Angelo meet, the former becomes a basket-case. She inadvertently salivates, and loses her coordination, bumps her head and fumbles through stuff. Such is the conceit of the "Bossing" that he even had to refer to her as "Miss Laway". And I sincerely sympathize with all of "bossing's" cinematic muses for falling vulnerable and debilitated under his bewitching machismo. Sure, this is comedy, but there has to be something remotely feigning reality.
Pokwang plays Pining, the deceitful trio's landlady, who's also fallen under Angelo's charm. (Toldya the bossing is irresistible!) When she asked him, "Ano ba ang meron si Cielo na wala ako?" Jose replies with, "Lamang lang naman siya ng isang paligo sa yo... sa fountain of youth!" Get it? At another time, Phil and James ended up shoving two bananas inside Pining's mouth, so she's left doing Heimlich maneuver on her own. I suddenly miss watching "Three Stooges".
ALL IN THE TVJ FAMILY
There are familiar faces from the TVJ world. Ryan Yllana cameos as a naughty angel. Richie the Horsey plays a patient. Anjo Yllana is an obstetrician (who delivers Cielo's baby). Paolo Ballesteros plays Cielo's gay friend Anton. Toni Rose Gayda plays a nun handling the orphanage. And Joey de Leon is a Philippine Medical Association official who receives the complaint against Dra. Cielo. After finding Johnny Revilla's complaint against Cielo petty, Joey de Leon remarks, "Binebeywang mo ang oras ko!" then cracks it up with its raucous English translation, "You are wasting my time!" Baywang? Waist? Get it? And it is a waste alright to see less of Joey de Leon on screen because he genuinely cracks me up even with inane lines. His manner of delivery is distinct; his timing is impeccable. Vic Sotto meanwhile resorts to facial contortions and physical assaults ("pambabatok") to spark humor.
I'm not even discussing much of Bea Alonzo's participation in this film because what is this generation's best actress doing in a half-witted diarrheic stool like this? Did she read the moronic drivel in her script? In one scene, when Angelo finally takes Cielo to meet his father (Joonee Gamboa), this was how the scene went:
Tatay: "Sino yan?"
Cielo: "Doktora po ako."
Huh? Who asked what her profession was? It was a good thing she didn't turn in her medical diploma, board certificate and medical license.
During the requisite altercation, Angelo shouts at Angelito for failing to cure his own father.
Cielo: "Wag mong sigawan ang bata, anghel yan!" Huh? LOL
When Angelo got shot on the chest, the E.R. doctor suddenly performs the sensitive operation. Cardiothoracic surgeons do these things, not general practitioners or ER docs. After performing the operation, Cielo comes out of the O.R. wearing a dress! Couldn't fit into a scrub suit, Bea? After the same operation, Angelo dreams of Angelito saying his goodbye because his mission was completed. It was Angelito's time to go back to heaven. Then we find Angelo removing his oxygen mask. He gets off his hospital bed and runs after the child! This is nothing short of a miracle considering he just survived a close-to-fatal chest gunshot and a cardio-thoracic operation which should rightfully have him bed-ridden under intensive care supervision for the next week or so. The next morning, when he wakes up, his father (who had a lingering illness) was all healed - overnight! Imagine all four production companies looking after this project and they couldn't even get the basic things right.
Mainstream cinema is a bunch of greedy, sniveling nincompoops. Indeed!
But the most flagrant of immoral iniquity? Cinema Evaluation Board has given this maudlin piece of crap a B rating! Birdbrains at the Board!
C.E.B. & INCENTIVES OF HAVING FRIENDS
Republic Act 9167 created the Film Development Council of the Philippines which, to my knowledge, hasn't really done much for the industry. Its Section 10 further creates the Cinema Evaluation Board (CEB) composed of 30 members - 20 from the industry (for who would be better equipped to distinguish a work of art than the people working within, right?) and 10 from the arts, academe and business sector. Its main objective is to rate films and give incentives to superior work, i.e. "for the promotion and development of cinematographic art along world-class standards and global marketability". Now tell me, based on the sketches I presented here, which portion of the film brilliantly titled "Pak! Pak My Dr. Kwak", is deemed world class? Is it the lingering fascination with farts and watery stools? The propagation of the myth that Vic Sotto makes young beautiful women drool? The condoning of quack doctors to perform "medical missions" when he isn't even a medical graduate? Or is it the lurid representation of:
a. "a clear and well realized and effective orchestration of the film elements"
b. a screenplay with a clear characterization, dialogue, plot and narrative structure; take note of a character played by Victor Basa, a gun-toting thug who's out for vengeance after being hoodwinked into giving a large sum for the cure of an ailing father who never got better. The "narrative structure" would eventually have him running after Vic Sotto, et.al. so he'll get his father re-treated. Again? Didn't he go through this before? And he wants another go at it? LOL. Didn't I say brilliant?
I can go on and on about the "merits" of this film that eventually ended up with a B rating (thus qualifying for a 65% tax incentive). Fantastic! And before writing 30, Jackie Aquino, who I believe is a member of the mostly unemployed CEB board members, does a cameo.
When patronage politics is being shamelessly peddled by the people who's supposed to recognize good from bad films, isn't it sinful? Corruption doesn't always happen within duly elected positions. Otherwise, Carlo Caparas would never be remotely considered as someone of National Artist caliber. Not in my wildest dream.