Sunday, December 4, 2016

Bb. Joyce Bernal's "The Super Parental Guardians" - That Vice Ganda Magic!

Arci aka Ariel Ciriaco Taulava (Vice Ganda) works as the executive assistant of Madam Marife delos Santos (Assunta de Rossi), wife of the influential spokesperson of the Philippine National Police. He also doubles as the social media manager and runner of the impatient madam who promises to help him get employment in Korea where he dreams of working as an interior designer. To add to his growing list of chores, he's tasked to house-sit the matron's mansion currently undergoing renovations.  

One day, he unexpectedly reunites with Sarah Nahbati (Matet de Leon), his childhood best friend. When Sarah falls victim to the series of murders happening in her neighborhood, Arci gets the custody of Sarah's children, 12-year old Megan aka Melvin Gaspar and 5-year old Ernie (Awra Briguella and Onyok Pineda, respectively). 

But not if Paco aka Neil Nahbati (Coco Martin), the children's uncle, can help it. To keep the kids in a safer surroundings, Paco decides to take shelter in Arci's home (which isn't really his to begin with).

Together, the odd couple play momshie and papsie to the precocious kids who are having difficulties in school. Ernie can't be stopped from scribbling all over his school walls. Megan's grades are plummeting ("from 97's to 79's"). A mother's death, a new guardian and relocation don't exactly make life easy for children, right? Meanwhile, Paco, a former gang leader, is turning over a new leaf as he pursues being a stunt man. But his immediate past is briskly catching up with him. In fact, he is being pursued by Jake (Joem Bascon), his gang's arch enemy - and the current boyfriend of ex-flame Emme (Bela Padilla). 

When Megan and Ernie are kidnapped by Jake's minions, Paco and Arci must act fast. Or this would spell the end of their bahay bahayan.

Bb. Joyce Bernal's "The Super Parental Guardians" has a story that mirrors contemporary events. Suddenly, the life of the Filipinos is peppered with vigilantes. People are dropping like flies because a segment of society has decided to play judge, jury and executioner. If this isn't enough, the unfortunate respondents to the growing statistics even includes "kahit yung mga mukhang drug addict". You can be a suspect and die - without getting a day in court! If this is an idiot's interpretation on the concept of peace and security, then you can forget that civilization actually follows a set of rules - and the constitution - that also safeguards against abuse.   

This makes cinema a relevant mirror of society. But enough of this wanton philosophizing. This isn't the right vehicle for this topic. The story also becomes a flimsy smokescreen to the production's main objective - a festival-grade money-making scheme. How else do you explain the sudden appearance of a game-console button that spits up exploding balls? Did Vice suddenly acquire magical powers from Engkantasia? 

Then when Arci, along with his beki troop, pursues the bad guys at a train depot, they find Megan and Ernie tied up on a hand rail, and forthwith there appears zombies bound for Boo-san. Yeah, we understand satire, but even the most popular ones need to make sense within a story. Unless, of course, if time is running fast and a deadline is being pursued - so you conjure narrative strains that don't even fit in the mold. But that is an act of desperation.   

Vice Ganda is a cut above the rest. He can make the silliest lines hilarious. His witticism easily translates into physical and verbal humor. And there are quite a number here. Like when he gets his Korean visa and unexpectedly meets Matet. The bag-hitting stunt would have been silly, but it drew laughter all around. 

Scenes from the wake similarly succeed in bringing forth amusement, particularly when he was making selfies with the corpse; then again when he gives his beki troop Kathryn, Liza and Nadine (MC, Lassy and Kiray Celis) a streak of face smacks. That was slapstick, and as old as the Three Stooges. Not fond of it, but it was funny nevertheless. One particularly silly number happens when newly arrived Arci takes a photo of an unwelcoming maid. We knew that the "Ay, na lowbat!" punch line was coming, but sometimes jokes gain their hilarity from a comic's competence.   

Coco Martin gets his cue from the world of Cardo, his character in the top-rating "Ang Probinsyano". Unfortunately, while Cardo brims with charm, Paco lacks the empathy of his television persona. 

It doesn't help that Paco postures like an action star - and constantly wears a sulk. Sure, his TV series is hard to topple, but let this be a reminder that there's a very valid reason why the action genre has died a natural death. If he decides to embark on a movie career as an action star from hereon, he will soon realize why the genre has rested in peace, thank heavens.

Coco isn't absolutely charmless, as when he occasionally flirts with the boisterous Arci. Or when he walks out of after a confrontation with Arci saying, "Yuck!" His lisp is occasionally onerous, but he has learned to be comfortable with it. In real life, lisping doesn't diminish a person's functional capacity. Yun nga lang, these little imperfections are magnified on screen. As the story comes to its climax, Coco makes a go with Gary Valenciano's "Wag Ka Ng Umiyak" bringing the audience to hilarity.  


Awra Briguella is given his spotlight, as he squares of, if a bit prematurely, with the seasoned Vice. Some memorable scenes: Megan competes with Vice for the hunky construction workers' attention. While they serve them spaghetti, Arci offers them chicken lollipops and Megan has his glutinous "ginataang bilo bilo". In another scene, Arci suffers from Megan's acrobatic number at Family Day. That was kickass hilarious! Onyok Pineda, unfortunately, fails to translate his magic on celluloid. His lines are either shrill or labored.  

Some jokes don't quite make the grade: the sudden appearance of the Leila de Lima-lookalike shouting from nowhere (it was a punch line without a premise); the ramen-date of Coco and Vice and the noodle-pulling stint; and the appearance of the zombies. 

That they didn't give Kiray Celis a more substantial part is a wasted opportunity. This little girl is funny as heck. If they didn't realize, Kiray is one of the year's biggest box-office stars, courtesy of the blockbuster movie, "Love is Blind". MC, Lassy and Negi give considerable support. I won't mind seeing them again in future comedy films.

I first time saw the movie on it's opening day after watching "Enteng Kabisote 10 and the Abangers" so it was easy to compare the influx of people. Let's just say someone got butchered in this competition. 

I watched it again yesterday in SM, to accompany my mom, where 5 of its 12 cinemas (including IMAX and Director's Club) were showing "SPG". Sotto's "Enteng" was showing in only 2 cinemas. In Light Mall, they've already pulled out "Enteng" in favor of the disappointing vampire flick "Underworld: Blood Wars".


Industry insiders whisper that Star Cinema padded its P65 million opening (Enteng has P14 million). But if you consider the ratio of theater distribution, it seems very possible to earn as much as they said they did. As I write this (Sunday), Robinson's Galleria has 3 cinemas for "SPG" and 1 for "EK". SM North Edsa (and The Block) has 4 cinemas for "SPG" and 1 for "EK". Gateway has 3 cinemas for "SPG"and 2 for "EK". Greenbelt 3 does not show "EK"at all. "SPG" has allegedly breached the P150 million-mark on its 4-day run.

While I am not entirely sold on the artistry of "SPG", the movie made me laugh. But there are portions also that spotlight its weaknesses. The zombie appearance is one part. That scene alone was a palpable reminder why "SPG" didn't quite make the festival grade this year. 

But if Vice Ganda has something to say about his film's non-inclusion, he wasn't going to shut up about it. In its climactic end, he bawls his heart out and shouts, "Ba't kami hindi nasali sa filmfest?!" Then he blames the kids: "Dahil yata sa mga batang ito." Stroke of brilliance. It was so darn funny. 

But it also made people think. Money rules?

Or maybe, it's something simpler. 


Please read our featured post about Web Criticism:

#superparentalguardians   #viceganda   #cocomartin   #joycebernal   #awrabriguela   #onyokpineda

No comments: