Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Mommy Returns - Horrible Creatures

Ruby and William Martirez (Pokwang and Gabby Concepcion) are celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary with a plush party. While fixing themselves up, Ruby gets fatally electrocuted. She dies instantaneously leaving her three children - Amy (Kiray Celis), Toffi (Gerald Pesalga) and Saf (Jillian Ward) – under William’s care. But the decorous and successful dad harbors a secret that requires urgent action. He has been diagnosed with Prostatic Cancer! And he dreads leaving his children as orphans.

At the wake, William serendipitously meets commercial model Catherine (Ruffa Gutierrez) who’s had a crush on him since she was a little girl. Two weeks after Ruby’s burial, William proposes. Without much fanfare, they get married. The children ardently oppose and show their displeasure by making life a living hell for the amicable madrasta.

Meanwhile, Ruby finds herself at the gates of heaven where she meets Jorga (John Lapus), the caretaker of Purgatory, where Ruby awaits judgment. As fate would have it, Ruby manages to escape Purgatory and goes back to Earth to settle some unfinished business with her family. In fact, she wants to free her family from the clutches of Catherine who, to her, is a repugnant character. She has to be eliminated or her family might suffer.

While patiently trying to win over the children’s good graces, Catherine tries hard but never quite succeeds: she’s eternally running late; buys the wrong stuff at the grocery, finds her culinary specialty peppered with live mice. Everything goes awry and she senses this has something to do with the dead wife whose face is emblazoned all over the house, sneeringly looking down her way. Moreover, she experiences vivid dreams of a hand-to-hand combat against a cantankerous Ruby. What’s a new wife to do?

With the children brazenly denouncing her presence, would she ultimately give up the domestic ruckus? Is William really dying? More importantly, will Ruby ever succeed with her mission to get rid of Catherine? Will Ruby find her way back to the netherworld where San Pedro waits for his pet chicken Manny inadvertently taken along Ruby’s journey?

The story’s gist is impudently derived from the TV series “100 Days to Heaven”, without even mentioning Vic Sotto’s “Pak! Pak! My Doctor Kwak” which had an almost similar theme. But Director Joel Lamangan populates his cinematic palette with the most horrible excuse of human beings. There’s the dying father who’s rushing his matrimonial plunge so someone could take care of his children when he croaks (isn’t deception horrible?) There’s the new stepmother who dubiously agrees to marry her beau less than two weeks after their serendipitous meeting (why was she that desperate to tie the knot?) There’s the greedy in-law (Gloria Diaz as Mabel Diaz Laurel, a society matron who has fallen on hard times) who’s ecstatic over Catherine’s marriage to William as it would allow her to pay off all her accumulating debts (aren’t we the opportunistic in-law?) There are the meanest children who would do everything to embarrass and plague their stepmom with cussed accusations and disparaging remarks. Is this the accurate picture of modern youth? Rude, disrespectful and vicious? When you have kids like these, why would you want to be a mom? I shudder at the thought.

You wouldn’t be too surprised about the children’s demeanor. After all, apples (rotten ones) don’t fall too far from the tree, and their mother Ruby exemplifies the worse of them all. She wasn’t merely distrustful when she was still alive (she was a jeweler). As a wandering ghost, she’s consumed by a blind initiative to wreck havoc on the life of Catherine. Why would she want that on a girl fortuitously named Catherine (wink, wink)? If she really cared about her kids, would she prefer them fatherless as well if indeed William dies from cancer? Or is she clueless about his ailment? Don’t ghosts acquire a little more wisdom after passing over? Sometimes, there are tenets of common sense that aren’t easily overlooked. And overlook these, they did!

But wait. I am not quite done yet. Even Inday, the nanny (Moi Marcampo) is duplicitous; Rodel, the ex-boyfriend (Ervic Vijandre) is a scornful ex-convict. Heck, even Senior San Pedro’s assistant, the effete Jorga (Lapus), is a horned out fag lusting after construction workers. Where do we find decent human beings in this Lamangan macrocosm?

The film concludes with one of cinema's most ridiculously abrupt and petty resolutions. I had to pinch myself to realize that all the problems have been concluded by a horrid gown. ;) In fact, if delivering a gown was all it took to patch a domestic squabble, then we should all deliver gowns to find our happily ever after.

Sapphire, Topaz and Amethyst

Children burst with merriment when they learned that Catherine was leaving the house.

Joel Lamangan, once reviled by critics, hasn’t done a mainstream commercial film in a while so I was (well, not exactly looking forward but) expecting a work that’s middle of the road. After all, the director’s experience should teach him proficiency is some aspects of the film making process. Or has it? “The Mommy Returns” conspicuously underscores Lamangan’s fall into mediocrity and highlights all of his weaknesses. In fact, he has never done a movie this bad, he might as well farm camote on the hills of Alitagtag than do another film of this caliber. 

Pokwang, in her second lead role this year (she opened the film year with "A Mother's Story"), keeps the movie afloat, but doesn’t really transcend anything more than a perfunctory conduct to fulfill a banal character written on “bursts of ideas” (scriptwriter Ricky Lee recently explained on television about Mother Lily’s acumen to mine stories: “She has bursts of ideas that we freely develop into full stories.”) The enthusiastic comedienne once again parades her bevy of circus-styled costumes that puts Cirque du Soleil to shame! I was half expecting a trapeze swinging her way. You know, like a burst of inspiration, debah?

Gabby Concepcion and Ruffa Gutierrez have been around the business for so long. But it’s amazing how they have evolved into hammy performers. Gabby, for example, walks around with episodic emotions. He is dying, yet you never fully understand why you don’t feel the grief. There is no emotional baggage to speak of. Isn't this pertinent since you recently lost your wife? And that you’re dying from prostatic cancer? A scene has him knocking on his effete son Toffi’s room after getting the sad news from his doctor. With shoulders hunched down, Gabby should be almost inconsolable, right? Well, not really. He succeeded to look tired instead. Not grieving. Concepcion seems to live in the past, say circa 1989 when he was doing “Gorio and Tekla” with Maricel Soriano, or “Rosa Mistica” with Snooky Serna. Nothing much has changed. Even his looks has stagnated into delectable youth and unfortunately, bland demeanor.

Gabby Concepcion

Ruffa Gutierrez, on the other hand, can’t seem to drop her beauty queen schtick so she walks around with an imaginary crown on her head - and a throne pasted at her backside. You don’t quite find the character in her. What you feel instead is someone languishing on glory that’s so 1993 (when she won Miss World 2nd runner-up) – and that’s almost 20 years ago! Moreover, she doesn’t mirror the deportment of a 37 year old lady who has attained character. She wallows in a perceived glorious past. She was a better actress in 1993 when she did Joey Romero’s “Maricris Sioson: Japayuki”. Isn’t this sad? What is so wrong with a clan that has grown around the performing industry yet each member is as bland as the next sibling? Grabeh!

Kiray Celis is a funny presence because she takes her role to heart as Gabby’s obstinate daughter. She’s even funnier when she stands beside Hiro Magalona (who’s playing her suitor and confidant). The humor rests on her straight forward depiction, taking on something comic for dramatic. When Ruffa, as the stepmom, gifts her with a puppy, she shrieks: “Isauli mo na yan…beach!” Of course she meant “bitch”. She repeats to emphasize, “Di ba babaeng aso is beach?” Good heavens. Now let's practice elocution, children: "Beach! Beeeech!" "Bitch! betch" 'Betcha by golly wow"! "Life is a beach, bitch!" Now isn't that fun?

Finally, one of my sources of annoyances is the casting of Moi Marcampo (Piolo Pascual’s ex- girl Friday and former Survivor castaway) as the family’s nanny Inday. Instead of wearing a yaya’s frock, she traipses around with earrings the size of a gong, 3-inch shoes, designer outfit, cringe-worthy backless blouses and a cosmopolitan coif as though she was walking the runway even when merely serving juice. I get the intention that her character is rooting for. Unfortunately Marcampo is so raw and discombobulated where her acting acumen is concerned. Simple sentences are met with consumate distress. She can't even scoff properly. She ultimately ends up looking like a displaced street walker in desperate need of a customer. Whoever gave her this delusion that she should get into films deserves to be tied down the stakes and tickled for 12 straight hours until he pees in his knickers! Marcampo was given lines to accentuate her supposed hip presence, but she stalls in monotone and incomprehension. When she finds a stray chicken in a room, she painfully exhorts: “There’s a big cock in the kitchen!” There should be laughter. Instead, a cold shiver ran down my spine. Something gargantuan hit her in the face. Inexperience. The agonizing kind.     

Ruffa Gutierrez and Pokwang

Kiray Celis' amusing presence. Below are some of her enviable encounter with  the boys.

It's in the attitude: Kiray with Gerald Anderson, Sam Concepcion, Daniel Padilla, Markky Stroem and Inigo Pascual (Papa Piolo's son).

Kiray with Enchong Dee. I'd trade places with Kiray's right hand. Haha. Can I grope the rectus abdominis too? :;) 

Kiray with Aldred Gatchalian.

Hiro Magalona plays Kiray's suitor and confidant.

Moi Marcampo: Clueless! (left)

Ervic Vijandre plays Rodel, Catherine's ex-boyfriend.

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