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’s “Wake 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?
Question 2: Eh ano ang tawag sa malaking pusit?
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, et.al. 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?