Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tony Y. Reyes' "My Illegal Wife" - Humor Challenged Borrowings

After getting booted out of a job in Japan, 39 year-old Clarisse Sabaldica (Pokwang) comes home with a resolve to find her children a “father”, someone they can depend on. As fate would have it, she serendipitously meets Henry James Acuesta (Zanjoe Marudo) on her flight back to the Philippines. It's love at first sight. Unfortunately, her attraction is not reciprocated. But when their plane crashes, they find themselves marooned on an island. What’s worse, Henry suffers from amnesia. It's the opportunity opening up for her fervent wish.

Clarisse then concocts a plan to convince the poor guy that they are a married couple. “Pinatulan kita?” asks a baffled Henry. So goes the start of their blissful lives. Unknown to Clarisse, Henry is a “gold mule”. Several pieces of gold have been incredulously planted in his abdominal viscera prior to the plane crash (as though this was even medically possible). As if that wasn't enough, Henry is actually in a relationship with struggling jeweller Clarize (Ellen Adarna) who plotted the stygian operation. And the latter is desperate to find her missing beau. 

Back on the home front, Henry is starting to enjoy the attention he’s getting in Clarisse's household. The couple is, in fact, planning their church wedding with the help of their zany circle of friends (Beauty Gonzales, Pooh, Empoy Marquez, Edgar Allan Guzman). But sinister Clarize - "with a Z" - is closing in on them.

What happens if Henry regains his memory? Will Clarisse’s annoyingly cloying son Liam (John Steven de Guzman) lose a father figure? Will Clarisse forfeit her chance to have a complete family? Guess.

Tony Y. Reyes’ “My Illegal Wife” predicates solely on borrowed narrative snippets culled from Star Cinema’s array of blockbuster romcoms and the hit Angel Locsin teleserye, not to mention Kathniel's "Got2Believe": “It Takes a Man and a Woman”, “She’s the One”, “Bakit Di Ka Crush ng Crush Mo”, “Bride for Rent”, “Starting Over Again”, and that commercial-riddled vomitus called “Maybe This Time”. Its derivative content makes movie viewing utterly predictable and an unnecessarily gargantuan snooze . I felt like playing “sipa” or “tumbang preso” inside the cinema. I wanted to be anywhere but there. 

Even the supporting characters feel manufactured. Let’s take Empoy Marquez’s fractured and specious use of English words. Hasn't he done this similar ruse in a couple of romcoms in the recent past? If you had a fourth of a brain, you’d get exasperated by Marquez’s ludicrous shenanigan. "I smell something specie?" Duh. Too much of something is, well, “too much” – so we wanted to flush this charmless dingbat in a toilet bowl. Get rid of this abomination already. Beauty Gonzales’ briskly disappearing pout (supposedly born out of her rabidly kissing lover) is present in one scene and gone the next. She even felt the need to reference Wella, her character in “Starting Over Again”, as though people would find it amusing. I didn't. Wella’s two minutes of fame has rightfully passed so puh-lezzz bury her now!

There are several lines that make fun of physical attributes: "Ang isa, mukhang itik." In another scene, it becomes "Ang mga kaibigan niyang mukhang nalubog sa putik." "Janitor fish!" This is a hallmark of old school humor; the lazy variety that comedians/humorists of low-tier capability employ very often. And what's with the side story involving Jimmy Santos? Wasn't it one of the most painful movie moments you've ever watched in your life? Santos' idea of heightening emotions is his annoying sudden shouts. He would follow this up with grievous dramatic caterwauling. You'd think this old man had schizophrenia instead of Alzheimer's Disease. Santos apparently can't act to save his life. Yes, "Bang Bang Alley" was a fluke. But then Santos is being directed by Reyes; someone who's as clueless with on-cam emotions as he is in telling stories. 

Joy Viado’s cookie character is likewise troublesome. “Ba’t mo in-Indian si Liam, hindi ka naman Indian?” That was a joke? Seriously? Who laughed? And the clincher was...? Tony Reyes’ idea of humor is so 80’s that he could be responsible why Vic Sotto’s filmography is worth nothing but crap. “Pak! Pak! My Doktor Kwak?” “Lastikman?” “Fantastic Man?” “Iputok Mo, Dadapa Ako (Hard to Die)?” “Kabayo Kids?” Enumerating these titles even feels like an ominous predicament, a prostitution of sobriety and common sense.

Pokwang doesn't really take on a character. The movie runs with a succession of parody that doesn't quite synthesize into a singular coherent narrative. It's a feast of paper-thin caricatures. Pokwang is, of course, comfortable "being herself" but the film medium is a make-believe world and she isn't making believe. She's doing a protracted stand-up comedy show. Her impression of Nora Aunor elicited laughter ("Meron ba akong hindi alam, asawa ko?"). Zanjoe’s impression of Xian Lim, Daniel Padilla and Enrique Gil bear no semblance to the aforementioned gents so you end up with a headache trying to connect his so-called "joke". It was so flat I heard the wind from the east on its way to Ecuador. Zanjoe’s “Pinatulan kita,” was funny though. Joy Viado’s flirting with men was cringe-worthy. Zanjoe’s “I need an acceptable explanation” likewise flatlined and went to heaven. You see, everything about the film is a “hit-and-miss” affair; but they're mostly “misses”.

After Sarah Geronimo and Coco Martin’s recent disaster, Pokwang and Zanjoe Marudo follow awkwardly like another blundering pair, you’d never believe in a hundred million light years that something will romantically curdle between these two disparate souls. That Marudo and Pokwang are hailed as the “King and Queen of Skylight Films”, respectively, is pure gas. It is a slice of dishonor, if you ask me. Skylight Films, Star Cinema's alter-ego, has been churning out one mediocre film after another, with the exception of Veronica Velasco's “Tuhog”. This purveyor of second-rate mainstream fare is giving Star Cinema a bad rep.

A glimmer of hope in this gloriously wasteful effort is Ellen Adarna. She initially comes off irresolute, no thanks to vapid, albeit one-dimensional character development, but she eventually catches up, playfully pursuing the sinister-but-occasionally-funny vixen. When she contorts her face, you knew she was going to be a fumbling menace. And oh God, what a beautiful menace she is. If her character’s a bit unhinged or incoherent, it’s the brilliant writers’ undoing.

In one scene, she yells, “Sino ba ang babaeng yan?” How can she not know? Her henchmen had been spying on Pokwang’s Clarisse for some time to get to Zanjoe's Henry. It was even the reason why they found him, wasn't it? Someone conveniently forgot?


Here's a surprising fact: I watched "My Illegal Wife" twice to confirm my observations about this film, but what I've observed was this. Sarah Geronimo's "Maybe This Time", released 2 weeks ago, has folded for good. It's not in cineplexes anymore as I write this. How long did Toni Gonzaga's "Starting Over Again" run in our cinemas? An impressive 8-9 weeks, and even longer. "Maybe This Time" (MTT), after its 2nd week is gone. So tell me honestly, would you believe when they say that the Sarah-Coco starrer was a gargantuan hit? In fact, "My Illegal Wife" enjoyed a bigger and fuller crowd in Cebu (SM Cinema 3) as it was at a Gateway cinema. Moreover, while the Manila crowd had a more reserved reception to the film's humor, Cebu crowd was rowdier. Davao audience wasn't as pleased. The movie played on almost empty halls and the few who watched weren't laughing. What does this signify? Is the Manila crowd a more sophisticated audience than the provincial folks? Is Davao more urbane in their humor? There should be a sociological explanation to these discrepancies, shouldn't there?
But this much is true, when a comedy flick offers laughters that are exceeding few and far between, you would wonder about the material’s raison d’etre and, subsequently, its source of inspiration. They designed a persona with Pokwang's ebullience and temperament. "My Illegal Wife" is a bad idea in the guise of comedy. One wonders why Star Cinema is “making hay” successively producing bad films this year! Is it following the foot steps of GMA Films? Anyare?   


Anonymous said...

“Ba’t mo in-Indian si Liam, hindi ka naman Indian?”

you'd be surprised that there are still quite a number of people that will still find this joke funny. i know it's old, predictable and 'sobrang gasgas'. but where I work, jokes like these are thrown around a lot, and still get some giggles.

I agree about the Vic Sotto's sad filmography. His humor is so obscenely outdated and yet he is still getting his box office hits. That guy lives in his large bubble. Like the one Boy Abunda, Kris Aquino et al has. It's a really depressing sight.

But as long as he's laughing his way to the bank, none of this really matters

- juan

Cathy Pena said...


Maybe financial bliss is a more considerable factor than quality filmography? But to be honest, I doubt if they really experience authentic artistic satisfaction. That is something money can't buy. And yes, Cebuanos laughed at the Indian joke. Just that it was not funny where I'm concerned. ;)

Nico Antonio said...

I just worked Vic Sotto a couple times (My Little Bossing and very recently, My Big Bossing) and what i can say about the guy is that he is a genuine funnyman in person.

Ang tingin ko kaya niya ginagawa ang mga pelikulang ginagawa niya ay dahil binibigay lang niya ang hilig ng madlang Pilipino... The same goes for Direk Wenn Deramas.

I realized this when I watched the Short Film Set B in the recent Cinemalaya where my short, "Eyeball" was also a part of. Previous to my short, another comedy short came first entitled, "Ina-tay", a Cebuano short about a gay dad and his gay son. Its comedy was slapstick at best. Nevertheless, people were laughing the entire time.

The point: Wag na tayo magtaka kung patuloy ang mga ganitong klaseng pelikula.

P.S. I'm a fan of Rene Requiestas :-)

Cathy Pena said...

Hi, Nico.

Vic Sotto enjoys great reputation for his work ethics, and I personally think that he's a good person. He is well liked, and this persona translates well on celluloid. This is why many Pinoys like him. There's a bit of transference in the process. I think I like him too. His movies, I don't. It's a matter of taste, probably, but I know in my mind that his movies are awful.

I cannot say I am an admirer of Pinoy comedies. My parents loved their Tito, Vic and Joey comedies. There's probably a generational discrepancy here. My taste leans towards Chris Martinez's "The Gifted" but dark comedy is rare here.

Too bad I missed "Eyeball". I would have loved seeing how that one went. I usually try catching the short films but they had very few screenings in Greenbelt. Ditto "Inatay" - a sort-of curse (giatay)- in the vein of "hinayupak, or "leche" or "namputcha" - in Visayan. :(

P.S. I saw a poster of a film starring a Rene Requiestas wanna-be, named RR Requiestas (I think). It is going to be screened one of these days. That will be interesting (well, I am curious).