It felt odd sitting inside an SM cinema with so few people. There was a family of 5 behind me and a mother-and-her-child down the row. It was the opening day's second screening (1:15PM) on a Wednesday - and a public holiday to boot. There was hopeful anticipation all over. Christmas came early, people thought. It was the start of the festival of MMFF rejects!
"Enteng Kabisote" movies are usually a chaotic experience, though not as much as a Vice Ganda film. Last Christmas, I remember miserably sitting on the orchestra floor watching "Beauty and the Bestie" because the cinema was filled to the rafters. It was traumatic for me; the most unglamorous experience I've had to endure, it made me blush! There were allegations of ticket-switching, but that was just ludicrous stunts from desperate fantards. It should be clear now who walked away with the box-office crown.
But this begged to be asked: Where was the holiday crowd? Have the hundred-thousand Aldub twitterverse warriors gone off to the mountains for a sabbatical? Maybe they've gone political and raised arms to exhume the remains of a despotic president who was buried with a hero's pomp and pageantry. Pero secret lang huh? Tee hee. But really, anyare?!
Enteng Kabisote (Vic Sotto), the country’s favorite handyman, is back. This time around, he has reinvented himself. The upgraded version displays a long, lean face, a familiar grin, that silvery fringe of mop on his head, and a protruding chin. He is "au fait" of all the shenanigans of the world. After all, he has battled monsters, wizards, giant tipaklongs, magical tutubi, shape-shifting vampires, and all the most ridiculous figments of a briskly dwindling, not-too-fertile imagination.
These days, Enteng dabbles in robotics, posturing like Tony Stark, the scientist. He even has a very active Instagram account that gets updated regularly. (Would you seriously follow a near-60 Instagrammer-Snapchatter?) His corporate bosses – the three lolas – are putting the pressure on him as he tries to complete a robo-gadget called Kalba Kalba suit. But his project requires a mineral ("limestone corals") he has yet to discover in Bohol. To celebrate his birthday, he books his family holiday tickets for Tagbilaran. Unfortunately, his busy schedule keeps getting in the way of family bonding.
On the domestic front, things aren't as peachy. Benok (Oyo Boy Sotto) is now a police chief deeply investigating a suspicious game application called "Slashman" believed to possess its gamers. The half-breed engkanto suspects that a syndicate more sinister than humans is behind the series of amok-related events. To make matters worse, he's at loggerheads with his father for spoiling his son Benokis (Alonzo Muhlach).
To cut the long story short, Enteng flies to Bohol alone - with a heavy heart! It is high time to take stock of his life, now that wife Faye (Pauleen Luna) is busy running Engkantasia, her fairy world. But what Enteng didn't foresee, the troubles of fairyland are spilling over in the world of man. Seven power-bearing half-breeds, collectively called "The Abangers" now live in their midst, and the nefarious "Tatlong Bibe" syndicate, headed by Dr. Kwak Kwak (Epy Quizon) are out to capture them - so he could re-acquire the powers that are rightfully his.
Enteng must help Benok stop the proliferation of Slashman, controlled by the mystical sovereign of Dr. Kwak Kwak - before it's all too late!
Inspired already? Not me. A portion of my right brain atrophied by 0.083% by merely telling that story.
The story is gaunt and clearly derivative of other Enteng Kabisote movies since 2004. It is fueled by a formula that other lazy minds find comfort in watching. Many Filipinos have been conditioned to find gratification in anything familiar and predictable. This is one of the strengths of this movie series. Watching a Vic Sotto film doesn't require transmission of impulses to brain neurons, thus nothing is painful or belabored, but the P240 cinema admission.
COTTON CANDY SYNDROME
One other draw of the movie franchise is this potpourri of constantly growing "dabarkads" that populate Enteng's world. When we find some of the characters doing cameos (like Allan K, Jimmy Santos, Ruby Rodriguez, Ryza Mae Dizon, or Joey de Leon as "Pandoy"), we slap ourselves silly and think, hey isn't that cool? It's the "cotton-candy syndrome". After a joyous sugar rush, we get tooth ache or die of hyperglycemia. The gains are as flimsy as a gossamer linen that eventually gets blown into the netherworld.
Let's take the case of the phenomenal Aldub who figures too fleetingly in this 10th incarnation. The couple play Enteng's hotel attendants Richard and Nicomaine (Alden Richards and Maine Mendoza, respectively). In the movie, we find them constantly canoodling together wherever Enteng goes while in Bohol. The running gag goes like, "Kayo na ba?" Then they both deny this, like they'd die an excruciatingly painful death if they'd admit it. When Enteng flies back to Manila, they also disappear unceremoniously - like that lavender-scented toilet paper too thin for substantial use. So they're disposed of accordingly.
Vic Sotto isn't entirely charmless. Ten Enteng films and a long-running (now defunct) television show are a testament to this, but it has been 10 years of the same shtick. Kaumay na. This qualifies Sotto as the Philippines' undisputed movie schlockmeister, purveyor of inane movies! If you disagree, name one excellent Vic Sotto movie - fast!
As the revamped Enteng, Sotto is besieged by old world jokes. How else does he render a subtext for "I know right?" circa 2009! On the other hand, April "Boy" Regino's "Di Ko Kayang Tanggapin" is even more archaic. The song came about in 1994 when Justin Bieber was born into this world so you can imagine the comic value of a song like this. Yes, I laughed - because I couldn't believe they're still stuck with this song! (Tickle tickle tickle)
Among the motley crew of characters, it's the Zobelayalas that provide the most amusement - Lola Nidora (Wally Bayola), Lola Tinidora (Jose Bayola), and Lola Tidora (Paolo Ballesteros).
The mere thought of these color-coordinated Zobelayalas and I couldn't suppress a giggle. These characters are too hilarious for my sanity, to be honest. They are unpredictable, adorable and every line they utter has a way of driving you to funny heaven and back. Vice Ganda has this talent. They could star in their own movie - and I'd gladly queue up and watch!
The lolas are part of the 7 "abangers" ("abang ng abang magkaroon ng silbi at maging kapaki-pakinabang" - go figure!) They include Oring (Cacai Bautista), Lucas Malakas (Jerald Napoles), Bisteka (Sinon Loresca), and Remy (Jelson Bay). They eventually get to slug it out with Dr. Kwak Kwak. In fact, one of the film's high lights is set within a computer-game. Fraught with comic flourishes, the presentation is visually impressive though the scene is protracted and unnecessarily long.
Humor in this film is oddly off-kilter. When Enteng finally subdues Dr. Kwak Kwak (a character that he portrayed in a 2011 Star Cinema film with Bea Alonzo, "Pak! Pak! My Dr. Kwak!"), he tells his nemesis, "Paano ngayon, Kwak Kwak, kwek kwek ka na!" Funny, right? Some other overworked lines: "Anong style mo?" "Style na bulok." There's also the "ma at pa" - "malay ko at pakialam ko!" In another scene, Remy tells Enteng, "Sa haba ng mukha mo, baka masaksak mo ako!"
At an airport, Enteng meets Jaya (a joke cross-referencing the "Queen of Soul" and Enteng's "soul searching"). Enteng then cracks, "Andaming bagahe. Lumipat na siyang talaga!" That got a chuckle from me. But you see, the jokes are a hit-and-miss affair. Some of them work. Mostly, they don't.
Curiously, the ubiquitous product placements are gone! Nahiya? Tee hee.
The film has two directors. Somehow, you get a sense of the parts directed by Marlon Rivera ("Ang Babae sa Septic Tank") and those by Tony Y. Reyes (director of all the past Enteng Kabisote movies from 2004 and the awards-worthy "Milyonaryong Mini" with Anjo Yllana). Dichotomy of sensibilities?
TRADITION OF CHRISTMAS MEDIOCRITY
"Enteng Kabisote 10 and the Abangers" is a stark reminder why things should change. Such vapid movies have spoonfed the movie-going public with harebrained stories for too long now. It is time we stop this tradition of Christmas mediocrity. They've used the festivities as their milking cow, feeding crowds with a lot of cinematic garbage. They should give it a rest. There are 365 1/4 days in a year. Pick a date to show your masterpieces - outside the Christmas season.
It is about time that we're purged of the vacuous drivel perpetrated by the Festival Mafia. Vic Sotto, after all, supports all these changes happening around. Change has indeed come. I hope Sotto will embrace this with gladness in his heart.