Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tween Academy Class of 2011 - The Kids from Planet X

What were they thinking?

This sentiment resonates all through out my watching Mark Reyes“Tween Academy – Class of 2012”.

The movie chronicles a year in the life of 3 high school “imba” (“invisible”), culminating with the highly anticipated JS Prom. School outcasts Enzo, Georgina and Kara (Elmo Magalona, Bea Binene and Barbie Forteza, respectively) navigate the hallways of Ridgeview Academy in less than flattering light. In such vacuous environment, appearances trump substance, a recurring theme that percolates way beyond the narrative.

Enzo wrestles with his shyness and an academic performance that has him attending remedial classes. But his life perks up when he starts serendipitous encounters with a bombshell (Sam Pinto) who turns out to be his Geometry teacher Maddie! Meanwhile, George is on tenterhooks dealing with her ambiguous relationship with Jepoy (mop-haired Jake Vargas) who in turn openly fawns over Chloe (Lexi Fernandez). To Jepoy’s mind, George is his best friend; something that frustrates George no end. But she doesn’t lose hope. Kara, on the other hand, is enjoying an online friendship with a fellow comic books fan named Colossus (Joshua Dionisio). When the latter urges for a meet up, Kara, “SuperGirl” as nome de plume, panics and asks her cousin Jess (Louise delos Reyes) to pretend that she is SuperGirl. Comic boy Robin on the other hand thrusts campus heart throb Christian (Alden Richards) as the comic geek. All hell break lose when the imposters start liking each other. What becomes of Supergirl and Colossus? Such quandaries are further aggravated by campus bully Maximo (Derick Monasterio) who finds pleasure in our protagonists’ miseries.

In what could be the year’s most disjointed narrative, the movie flagrantly displays the inadequacies and mediocre vision of its director, in a subject matter that he blindly maneuvers. He resorts to incipient ideas that, though laid out within the frame of the story, are mostly outlandish or underexplored. In terms of skills, Reyes can’t even stage an adequate musical number: check out Josh Miguel’s version of Wham’sWake Me Up Before You Go Go”. This number, though agreeably a fresh interpretation of this 80’s fodder, is awkwardly mounted on a stage. It’s a curiousity how he fails to take advantage of the medium (which affords them time, allows them recuts and re-shoots) to marshal the under-rehearsed tweeners who can’t even synchronize their movements. Ano to, amateur hour? This dilemma is largely a GMA talent malady. They allow musical numbers in their musical variety shows like Party Pilipinas to take the stage without adequate preparation. Bara bara, just so they can field anything! The sadder thing is, this isn’t even live – which should underline the pedestrian mind set of its makers.

In the story, Kara hides behind her SuperGirl online persona. She wallows and speaks in the most bizaare language. I myself am one who uses LOL, ROTFL, and other cyber slang during chats and even in email correspondence, but these kids take the next level. No, make it “next alternate world”. Consider the following: AFK (away from keyboard), MMB (“message me back” just when I thought it meant “Metro Manila Barkada”); IDK (I don’t know); F2F (face to face, instead of the easier “EB” for “eyeball”); IKR (I know right). The most ridiculous, as it’s actually spoken is “TYP” (Thank you po). Common sense would dictate that the expediency of acronyms in local parlance rests on the shortening of multisyllabic words and phrases. In Mark Reyes’ netherworld, he dispenses these silly acronyms because he thought people find it amusing, further underlining how exceedingly perceptive he really is.

What’s even funnier is, when these acronyms are used by these characters in their chatboxes, they are written along with what they stand for. The abbreviations are there alongside their whole meaning. Everything becomes a tedious, redundant drivel.

When the “imba” friends gather round to convene on what remedial steps could improve their social standing, they brilliantly come up with a list: dye hair pink, get a tattoo, make-over, learn to drive, face your fear. Dye hair pink? No wonder others think they hail from some extraterrestrial planet.

Reyes even flowers his briskly drowning narrative with some of the most insipid jokes ever heard:

Question 1: Ano ang tawag sa maliit na pusit?

Answer: Pssssst!

Question 2: Eh ano ang tawag sa malaking pusit?

Answer: Hoy!

Here, It’s hard to summon sympathy the way we sympathize with the characters in Joe Nussbaum’s “Prom”. Mentioning “Prom” even feels like a disservice to the latter. It’s like comparing “Gone with the Wind” and Mark Reyes’ acronym-driven idiocy, “I.T.A.L.Y.” (“I Trust And Love You”) You end up staring at the screen feeling a vacuum is about to engulf you whole as karmic punishment from the mere patronage of this film.

To pay homage to the youth movers of the late 80’s and 90’s, Reyes enveigles their presence: Yayo Aguila, Nadia Montenegro, Angelu de Leon, Bobby Andrews, Chuckie Dreyfuss appear in forgettable supporting characters that don’t even leave a discernable footprint. Heck, they even have Jojo Alejar dance his cobwebbed terpsichorean groove as though Alejar was a major force of a generation. He wasn't. There is a good reason why such conceit is better consigned to oblivion.

Director Reyes further peppers his cinematic vomitus with cameos: German Moreno, Dingdong Dantes, Marian Rivera, Mark Herras, Hunky Aly Borromeo (with Azkal’s Chieffy and Ian) and Cosplay’s Alodia Gosiengfiao make transient appearances to heat up the screen; moments that should have lifted the watchability of this clunker. However, they only accentuated the irredeemable story. I’d have wanted to simply cower and hide under a rock if I were to be a part of this upchuck. It is a criminal offence to perpetuate the dimwitted brain activity that has long plagued Mark Reyes. Wasn’t GMA aware that selling garbage is punishable under the revised penal code of the Philippines? To this day, I wonder why the GMA think tanks are too myopic to indulge Reyes with his music video-driven, magazine-show inspired film making. This isn’t a music video, Mr. Reyes, it is a darn movie where people actually pay PhP160 bucks to flagellate themselves.

How are the performances so far? “Repulsive” is an appropriate term. Barbie Forteza is innocuous at best, failing to impart a sense of urgency to her online dilemma. You just didn’t care that she didn’t end up with Christian – or that she eventually lands on the lap of Robin. Bea Binene mistakes enthusiasm for acting, yet she can't even deliver her lines with an iota of believability. And when the likes of gossip-monger Dolly Anne Carvajal hail Binene as a young Maricel Soriano, we don’t just shrug and relegate Carvajal’s delusion to her inebriation, we huff and puff for such injustice! It is an insult to the thespic savvy and brilliance of the embattled Diamond Star! Joshua Dionisio, on the other hand, can only summon a perfunctory performance, that leaves an emotive void. Elmo Magalona saddles his character with hackneyed demeanor. Though he bears the charm of his departed father, he curiously lacks his acumen. Elmo mostly extravagates into cinematic blandness. These GMA “tweeners’” cinematic outing begs comparison to ABS-CBN’s tweeners, real teenagers who ooze with charisma, and more importantly competence as young actors.

That Mark Reyes continually makes movies – like “Tween Academy” - is an invective not just to patrons of Pinoy films, but to a mainstream industry that badly needs some perking up. Tween Academy is the poster flick of awful. And when you sit inside a movie house on a weekend with just 6 souls watching in a theater hall that sits 200 or more (on the film’s opening week, at that), isn’t that the hand of fate playing judge and jury?

Derick Monasterio, a spitting image of his mother, former actress Tina Monasterio.

Alden Richards (as Christian) and Kristofer Martin (as Diego)

Joyce Ching (as Ashlee) and Lexi Fernandez (as Chloe)


jelai said...

yeah, i agree with you. although i must admit that i am always a kapamilya fan, i just can't help but compare this tweeners to the young talents that the kapamilya network have.

let's just put it this way. we can't help comparing them because they are on the same age bracket, their shows have the same time slot, their movies premier at the same date, if not close to the other's premier date.

the launching of the barbie-joshua and jake-bea tandems were undeniably a major hit to the masses especially in the ncr and gma regions. the reason that i see? simple, because the kapamilya network didn't have a good piece, a good project or a good idea whatsoever to fight them yet. but when they launched mara clara, and good vibes,it suddenly put a major twist and turn to the fame of the tweeners.

in fairness to the good vibers, they took the spot of being number 1 in their timeslot when their show was aired, and now, growing ups which actually gained a good rating last sunday. moreover, their movie way back home, was a hit compared to the tween hearts academy. hello!!! sa story palang kaya ng way back home. they don;t need cameos and have special participation, because kathryn, julia, enrique and sam are watchable enough. they are really worth-watching. they don't need to do over acting over pda to make the crowd like them. all they have to do is to act naturally, and feel their roles, just that, effortless.

right? taas naman ng comment ko..

Cathy Pena said...

The silliest thing is, CEB seems to have rated this idiotic flick a B-rating. B- rating, imagine, when it can only muster badly staged musical numbers. Those bird brains at the CEB are really standing by their idiocy!

chris palacio said...

Way Back Home has a different story compared to Tween Academy.... The former has a serious plot... Tween Academy's purpose is to make the fans smile & experince "kilig moments" since it is a coming-of-age film... i guess we should make credit to gma since its been eons ago that somebody from the Philippine cinema created a movie with a theme like this... Tween Academy been in theaters for 2 weeks now so we could not make a conclusion that "Way back Home" is selling like a hotcake compared to Tween... That would be a hasty generalization... well the memory is somehow fresh in my mind- TGIS of GMA (a youth oriented weekend drama series) has been a hit and copied by ABSCBN thru Gimik... History repeats itself indeed. Need i say more?

Cathy Pena said...

Coming-of-age films, whether meant as serious commentary or as a tenuous "kilig" movie, are not meant as an excuse for idiocy, incompetent film making and for exhausting ideas that just don't make sense. Rob Reiner's "Stand By Me" and Michael Caton-Jones' "This Boys Life" (with Leo di Caprio) are just a few of the excellent coming-of-age films not superficially meant to "make fans smile and experience kilig moments". Mark Levin’s “Little Manhattan” may inspire swoons but it was never superfluous nor superficial. They are movies that spotlight real growing up pains and how people transcend their emotional dilemma.

You have a rather myopic vision of what a "coming-of-age film" should be. “Coming of age” is a young person's transition from childhood to adulthood. This transition doesn’t exactly occur within a year, more succinctly after a JS Prom. Coming-of-age Film is not akin to Youth Films or Juvenile Flicks. Brain-dead films like "Tween Academy" should never be analogous to real growing up experiences caught on film.

I never give credit where credit is not deserved!

And since you've been clearly misinformed and largely unaware, were you asleep when Jerrold Tarog's "Senior Year" opened last March? Did you watch it? That was just 6 months ago, thus doesn't exactly qualify as "eons". That was beautifully realized snippets of high school memories. Did you pay your homage, i.e. “give credit”, by patronizing that film? Did you watch Aureaus Solito's "Pisay"? That was another excellent film about high school students. Since these excellent films didn't even seem to register in your radar, your patronage is rather selective. You should not make hasty generalizations. Eons, anyone?

I watched “Tween Academy” on its opening week end, with just 6 people watching it. My cousin in Davao watched it at SM Davao’s Cinema 3 with just 3 souls watching just last week. How can that be a hasty generalization? If anything, it’s pretty much based on numerical statistics.

Finally, who the heck cares who copied who? It’s the end product that matters. And from my end, “Tween Academy” stinks like a huge pile of crap! It’s a stupid film, and I am not gonna thank anyone for having me pay P170 for garbage!

That GMA is to be credited for selling such watery diarrheic stool is unadulterated lunacy! I’d be a happier person if they never make movies like this one – not even for a century!

Don said...

Tween Academy's a train wreck but I actually didn't have such a lousy time watching it. Most of the time, I just laughed at how stupid these kids are.

It's shrill, silly and badly made. You'd think that GMA would step up their game since their talents are obviously unknowns compared to the ABS-CBN's but this movie just blew away any hope for any of their "tween" stars's bid for popularity. Haha.

Excellent review, as always!

Cathy Pena said...


I guess the secret of enjoying a bad film is in laughing at their inanities.

Thanks for the kind words. ;->