Sunday, April 20, 2014

Joyce Bernal's "Da Possessed" - Gold in Misery

Three ghosts are out to settle score when they are inadvertently dug out from an unmarked grave on a land where a casino is being built. Problem is, our would-be hero Ramon (Vhong Navarro) is a wimp, a “lampa”, with a weak heart. But he desperately needs to work to save his family’s house from foreclosure. He meets and falls in love with Ana (Solenn Heussaf), the spunky daughter of the casino’s owner Don Demetrio (Joey Marquez) who has a shady past.

Meanwhile, our ghosts (Empoy Marquez, John Lapus and Aaliyah Belmoro) have to intermittently take over Ramon's body to coax the truth out from the murderer who happens to be Don Demetrio. Will Ramon solve the ghostly trio’s dilemmas: revenge, a proper burial and finding a playmate? How will this affect Ramon’s burgeoning relationship with Ana? Will he save his family out of their financial rut? Guess.

Director Joyce Bernal spins an oft familiar yarn that’s not too far removed from her other collaborations with Vhong Navarro in the distant past. In fact, if you feel a certain degree of déjà vu while watching the movie, don’t worry, it isn't you.

But the spirited cast which also includes Joy Viado, Smokey Manaloto and Beverly Salviejo more than makes up for the narrative cliché.

Vhong Navarro hams it up and succeeds even in brain-dead comic punchlines. He has always been a brilliant comic. Try the banana jokes. “Paano pababalikin ang saging?” Answer: “Tu---ron! (Tarah)” “Paano mo paaalisin ang saging?” Answer: “Tanggalin mo ang B. Ana-na!” Are you laughing already? The jokes are a hit and miss affair, a tack not unfamiliar in Joyce Bernal’s slapstick comedies. Most of the jokes are highly dependent on the comedic intuition and quick wit of the actors. When Mama Belen (Beverly Salviejo) was abducted, Ramon’s sister-in-law Marie (Matet de Leon) insightfully deduced: “Nasa abandonadong bodega!” When asked how she knew, she replied:  “Lahat ng kinikidnap, si Mara (Clara), si Marimar, si Claudine, si Kristine Hermosa, lahat sila dinadala sa isang abandonadong bodega!” O nga naman.

Navarro perfectly complements with the gorgeous Solenn Heussaf who continues to amaze us with her spot-on characterization even in comedy. Heussaf has been known for her emotive honesty so it’s a surprise to find her perfectly tempering her Ana character with deft precision. Listen to her speak Tagalog like the natives, if that isn't impressive compared to other half-breeds, I don’t know what is. The girl just works hard so you don’t cringe listening to her speak her lines. Have you heard from the once-again-bankable Papa Piolo inviting you to “Download the Eb…”? “Epp?” Ah, “application”! Epp daw kasi eh. Ohgawd!

Like other Vhong Navarro movies, there’s a dance showdown somewhere in the movie. Vhong and Solenn in fact danced a hip-shaking Christian Martinez novelty tune with a large crowd at a mall. The theme – Bollywood! Irony isn't lost in us because wasn't Solenn in the amateurish “Mumbai Love” which had execrable musical numbers?  This is how a Bollywood musical number is done, Benito Bautista! Stop rationalizing that good choreography and cinematic execution require an enormous sum of money.

As for Vhong, his recent traumatic run in with fellating ladies and rich extortionists seem to have revitalized his sagging movie career. His last film with Star Cinema was 3 years ago with Chito Rono’sBulong”, wasn't it? His “Shake, Rattle and Roll’s The Invasion” for Regal was 2 years ago. Who regularly watched "Todamax" on TV? 

Now, scroll through your Facebook page. It’s easy to find dimwits calling him “idol”. While we are glad that Vhong recovered from his assault and that the arrogant Cedric Lee and company are wallowing in their legal woes, we shouldn't be quick to place philanderers on pedestals just because they survived an ordeal that would have been prevented had he not taken “foods” to a shadowy acquaintance’s condo in the wee hours of the night while his girlfriend waited at home. And some elevate him to being a “hero”. Would he have seriously apologized, albeit tearfully, to his partner and kids on national television had he not been caught? "Idol", you bet. Go figure.


rael exa said...

love the movie so much specially dun sa part na sumayaw sila ng parang Indian song na hindi naman po!!!! and gusto ko lng po malaman title ng song... thank's

Cathy Pena said...


The song is called "Da Moves", with words and music by Christian Martinez, and published by Star Records. I don't think they actually released this track (at least as of this writing), or even the title track, "Da Vhong". :)