Monday, November 12, 2012

Armando Reyes' Dorm Boys - When Youthful Charm Doesn't Suffice

Dorm life can be helter-skelter fun when you’re hanging out with a group of cool guys who shrug off their problems like disposable tissue. Tonton (Arron Villaflor) longs for the company and affection of his father (Bobby Yan) who has a family of his own. While his dad supports him financially, he is mostly dismissive of Tonton's preludes for camaraderie. After all, Tonton is the son out of wedlock, and he’s been kept a secret for the last 20 years of his life.

On his 5th year in Engineering, Hector (Carlo Lazerna) is still a sophomore. Despite his hard work, he keeps failing his classes. All he desires is to shift to Fine Arts – his passion. Unfortunately, his father – a failed artist who now moonlights painting houses - wouldn't allow him to suffer similar fate. To make matters worse, Hector’s gay professor is pressuring him for a concupiscent rendezvous. This would solve his academic dilemma, but would Hector give in?

Iggi (Arvic Rivero) only dreams of making it to Canada alongside his ladylove Carla (Mayton), a housemate who barely looks his way. Carla, you see, is infatuated with Tonton. To make matters worse, Iggi isn't interested in studying so he mostly confronts his scholastic activities like child’s play. Ruben (Ryan Kevin) harbors a crush on Liezel who maybe mutually attracted to him. But the grapevine suggests that she maybe peddling flesh to dirty old men, or isn’t she? Richard (Renz Michael aka Michael Sy), privileged but neglected, clandestinely plays around with sexy girl friend Cynthia (Pamela Sue) who happens to be his teacher in college. But one day, he discovers that his girl friend is sleeping around with another guy (Kenneth Salva). These predicaments give our protagonists a full plate of predicaments to hurdle. 

Director Armando Reyes gathers a coterie of fresh faced and enthusiastic noobs oozing with good looks - and they may have a future in mainstream cinema. Arron Villaflor, star of Jason Laxamana’sAstro Mayabang”, befittingly headlines this smorgasbord of stories. The only veteran among the young stars, Villaflor adequately anchors and pieces their disparate stories together. It takes a while for the vignettes to rankle into narrative life, what with five separate stories pushed into the fore. But the cast’s youthful verve and earnestness soon drive a sense of energy. Villaflor’s narrative thread is unitary, but it’s hobbled by a ridiculously brisk resolution that’s too implausible and too manipulated to believe. The other more developed story was that of Hector’s who’s forced into taking a course beyond his intellectual capability or disposition. Unfortunately, Lazerna occasionally resorts to predictable schmaltz. But this, in time, is remediable.

Arvic Rivero possesses a disarming charm that allows him to navigate his woeful story (he is eternally cash strapped, unable to pay off his rent on time so he resorts to selling library books) with a dash of glib and humor. Ryan Kelvin is easy on the eyes. His flirting scenes with his school crush (Nadine Luster) amuse us. But his story is also the flick's most underwritten. There’s hardly a back story to support or expand his character. Despite the youthful energy of the main cast, Armando Reyes’ cinematic exposition is cursory. This dearth of emotional depth disallows the audience to invest attention or sympathy on most of the characters.

Arron Villaflor’s part came close, but not quite. What I didn’t appreciate was how he conspired to “stalk” his father during Christmas – then eventually arranged to “out” his father to his family. Why would anyone consciously plot to expose his father’s past indiscretions to his present family? It was a mean, albeit irresponsible and thoughtless thing to do. Yet Bobby Yan suddenly changed tune and accepted him after his backhanded maneuver. Arron was clearly unwanted; he was rudely treated like one was swatting flies every time he came to see his father. Personally, I would never impose my presence on someone who doesn't want me.

Youth movies rarely come by these days, thus "Dorm Boys", despite its misgivings, is a welcome cinematic offering. We just wish it invested a little more on a character development and, more importantly, employing an intuitive director.   

Armando Reyes’Dorm Boys” is inspired by the short stories of Cesar Buendia’sMorayta corner CM Recto” (“Dormitoryo 2" & "University Belt”). We find stories of our youth always compelling because we can relate to the roller coaster ride of emotions associated with puberty and growing up. The flick could have soared with a more insightful and focused story. Instead, it relied heavily on the young actors’ unadulterated moxie. Reyes recruited members from the all-boy dance group “Freshmyx” and the K-pop wannabe “XLR8”. Glimpses of their youthful charm get translated on screen. Fact is, charm doesn't a good movie make. The rest of the predictable story ultimately suffers from prosaic film making. Good thing we didn't expect a masterpiece.           

Arron Villaflor shares his thespic gravitas.

Renz Michael and Ryan Kevin

Renz Michael

Beautiful Pamela Sue plays teacher Cynthia and Richard's secret lover. 

Ryan Kevin, a member of the dance group "Freshmyx", he could be your next Teen Dream if given the right break (above and below).  He plays Ruben in "Dorm Boys". 

Ryan Kevin

Carlo Lacerna plays Hector, one of the film's most complex characters.

Lester Miramon may not have speaking parts but it's hard not to notice him (above and below).

Kenneth Paul Salva cameos as the teacher's latest boytoy.



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