Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Temptation Island - Sweetest Temptations in Camp Classic

Beauty contests draw women from all walks of life, each one driven by a variety of motivations – fame, fortune and the quest for what would seem like a more tangible form of self worth and independence. When Manila Sunshine Pageant makes its call to public, a bevy of interesting girls come flooding by.

Among these colorful characters: Pura K (Solenn Heusaff), a desperate beauty whose once rich family is now struggling for their old glory; Virginia P (Heart Evangelista), a haughty kolehiyala who's grappling for personal liberties (she's the unica hija in a male-dominated family); Serafina (Lovi Poe), the annoyingly catty front runner; Cristina G (Marian Rivera), the schemy hooker who's in it for the top plum - house and lot. Each one has specific reasons for their participation.

A pre-finals yacht adventure takes the ladies to the Caticlan seas. Tagging along for the ride are Tonio (Dennis Trillo), Cristina G's hustling squeeze; Joshua (John Lapus), the pageant impresario along with his boytoy and photographer Ricardo (Mikael Daez); college student Alfredo (Aljur Abrenica), who's infatuated with Virginia P, and Nimfa (Rufa Mae Quinto), Serafina's much abused alalay. As fate would have it, the ship caught fire and the aforementioned characters find themselves marooned on a desert island. With no supplies for shelter nor food for sustenance.

What follows are the hilarious squabbles, feckless and inconsequential, but undeniably fun!
Somewhere along their discord blooms romance, friendship, and jealousy. And desperate trappings to survive take them into situations that are frolicky and hilarious.

Heart Evangelista: lovely but inconsistent!

This cinematic update of the Joey Gosiengfiao 80's camp classic renames most of its characters to pay homage to Gosiengfiao who was regarded as one of Regal Films' "bold directors". To be perfectly honest about it, I only saw the original "Temptation Island" early this year (Thanks, Kyle!), but I have never had so much fun watching an old Tagalog flick with faded color schemes. It has, in fact, become a personal favorite. And one of the pleasures of watching it was predicting which new set of actors would eventually land the characters. I got the line-up 100% right, although I didn't know Dennis Trillo would be in it! Trillo would take the role of Tonio (originally played by a mestizo actor named Tonio Gutierrez), Christina G's boytoy.

In this film, the main characters were renamed into the vamps that personified Gosiengfiao's cinematic muses, mostly Alma Moreno starrers. Virginia P. was a titular character that starred Alma Moreno, Richard Gomez and Alice Dixson (Jonas Sebastian, who played the original Joshua, wrote the script for this 1989 flick). Cristina G was from "Diary of Cristina Gaston" (1982) that also starred Moreno, Alfie Anido and Jimi Melendez. Serafina was from "Nights of Serafina" shown during the "ST phase" of Philippine cinema in 1996, topbilled by an actress I barely remember, Georgia Ortega - with her consorts Mike Magat and John Apacible. Nympha was from "Nympha", another "bold flick" in 1980 that starred Moreno, Ricky Belmonte, Orestes Ojeda and Alfie Anido. It's actually Pura K (Kikinang) that I can't quite place. This character portrayed by Solenn Heusaff (in this new version) and Bambi Arambulo (in the original) could be one of Alma Moreno's characters too. This move is particularly amusing as it pays homage to Gosiengfiao who loved his women donning Regal's "wet white magic kamison" and his men in the skimpiest bikini briefs.

Lovi Poe: incandescent performance!

Heart Evangelista takes on Dina Bonnevie's kolehiyala role (a character originally named "Dina" but has since been changed to Virginia P.) Though we initially thought Heart would be perfect for the role, she hardly passed muster. Her performance brought a character that was largely inconsequential and inconsistent, vacillating between a snooty college brat and an equally infatuated girl to Alfredo's (Aljur Abrenica, who plays a the college jock) romantic pursuits. Evangelista's performance is a curiosity. We couldn't picture another actress for the same role yet she twiddles between tentatively annoying and downright forgettable. It could have been a perfect fit. What gives?

It couldn't be blamed entirely on her sparkless chemistry with Abrenica playing Alfredo, a role originally played with suave confidence by the English-proficient Alfie Anido; something that Abrenica is too far removed. Abrenica's deliveries were perfunctory and at times painful... like playing a pre-recorded dull declamatory line, robotic and wooden, taking Machete back to the fore. For this folly, the usually insightful director Chris Martinez could have tweaked the script a bit by allowing Abrenica to speak in the vernacular. Pag di kaya ang Ingles, Tagalugin! This will solve the linguistic hurdle. Unfortunately, even Abrenica's Tagalog lines were stiff and amateurish. How long has he been in the business? One year?

For all of Abrenica's physical splendor, he is hopelessly hammy, which is sad considering the fact that he is being groomed by his mother studio as a top-tier leading dramatic actor. What is with GMA's lead actors? Richard Gutierrez, Aljur Abrenica, now (from all indications) Mikael Daez? There is a consistently common denominator: beautiful, but bland!

Marian Rivera, as Cristina G, hams it up. Her zealous demeanor could have taken her character to town. Even her English affectations were in perfect sync with Azenith Briones' original performance. They play an ambitious escort girl who dreams of conquering her poverty-stricken existence. Unfortunately, her Cristina G fails to stay afloat. She may have been Marimar, Darna, Dyesebel and Amaya, but her over eager depiction of Cristina G sinks into the realm of caricature.

The lovely Marian is paired off with the ruggedly handsome Tom Rodriquez who takes on Domingo Sabado's role as the cruise ship waiter Umberto.

Solenn Heusaff wrestles with her Tagalog, but her character is well placed. Pura K grew up from an old rich family; she's well schooled and connected. But her family fortune is fast dwindling. This contest, her 4th, would hopefully take her back to her rightful social status. However, at the back of my mind, I couldn't help but think of the adorable Carla Abellana and what she could have done with the role. If you've seen her last year in "Shake, Rattle and Roll - Punerarya" (also produced by Regal Films), you would know what we're talking about.

Solenn is paired with the very green Mikael Daez as Ricardo, the kept boy (originally played by Ricky Belmonte). But Daez was unexpectedly droll. There was hardly a hint of romantic spark between the two. What's worse, Mikael doesn't register as well as he did in his Jollibee commercial or his boobtube personas for that matter. To be fair, this is his first film - shot just a few months into his entry in the business. To my mind, he could have done better with Alfredo's role - the cono jock who's smart and dependable. Aljur could have essayed the perfect callboy Ricardo. I am nevertheless looking forward to his next projects. Despite this debacle, Daez seems like a promising personality.

Alfie Anido: sorely missed!

John Lapus can't hold a candle to Jonas Sebastian's Joshua, the pageant impresario with a kept boy, who later becomes errr... "food"? Joshua is a pivotal role, taking the film's campiness to theatrical frolic. In fact, he bears a number of iconic lines, including references to the movie's title:

"How can you resist all the temptations in this island?"

"It's a sabotage, an accident, a twist of fate."

"There ought to be a law against social climbers. They ought to be executed."

"This is like Cairo, a perfect spot for a camel ride."

Lapus doesn't have the verbal cadence and vocal flourish of Sebastian, though on the whole, Lapus is a serviceable Joshua.

Aljur Abrenica takes his Machete role to heart: wooden!

Rufa Mae Quinto updates the maid's role Nympha (played originally by Deborah Sun) and owns it like it was written for her. She's always had this sardonic take on pedestrian lines, her impeccable wit at delivery is just pure joy. She simply cracks me up. There were a few scenes that showcased her comedic talent: when she was making a bench out of the dunes; her "dance of the seven veils" that ushered the scene where everyone else falls into the lure of the island; her blind servitude to her mean employer, etc.

Mikael Daez plays kept boy-photographer Ricardo.

But among the bevy of beauties on display, it is Lovi Poe who shines the brightest! She's perfectly attuned to her character - catty, ambitious, maid-toting Serafina, played in the original by Jennifer Cortez. When she flips her hair and waves a stick against her enemies, she embodies this snooty girl who looks down on everyone. She's this seductress; the vamp from hell, and obviously, Panday's sophisticated daughter. What a joy to watch!

Much of the script has been kept intact, even the treatment of scenes has been carefully studied to remain faithful to the original. Sure, cyber technology has been adequately placed, but not much else. Martinez also did away with the protracted and useless contestants' speeches that characterized the concluding portion of the original. And this time, Cristina G chooses the right man for her.

Are we in favor of the idea of remaking and updating "Temptation Island"? Absolutely! A whole new generation is not familiar with the original. There are people who wouldn't take the time to watch a grainy, almost black-and-white 1980's film. Some stories deserve to be told - again! Though this work isn't as fun as its predecessor, Martinez rides his humble boat by carefully tweaking its story line into something as close to the original - in all its campy and artistic sensibilities. It's a tough act to follow. But this is Chris Martinez, one of the most brilliant directors of his generation.

Tom Rodriguez plays the waiter Umberto.

Alfie Anido was the original Aldredo, played in the current version by Aljur Abrenica.


Anonymous said...

Pura K was from "The Secrets of Pura."

This remake well, disappoints. I'll make a review soon. I agree though--Lovi was wonderful!

Cathy Pena said...

Yes, it doesn't measure up to the original. I think the problem here is, in Martinez's fear of "desecrating" a classic, he ended up with something that didn't quite soar. The men were awful and Lovi was great!