Updated 17:56 PM PHT Mon, December 5, 2016
Manila (CNN Philippines Life) — This year’s Metro Manila Film Festival has been a contentious one, with big producers crying foul over the very prominent snubs of their franchises' next installments. We have Mother Lily Monteverde pushing the case for another “Mano Po” film, Vic Sotto with his new “Enteng Kabisote” movie, and Vice Ganda defending his second feature with Coco Martin.
MMFF entries or not, these films — swept aside this year in favor of independent full-length features — still want their share of the pie. We review the first two that came out this week.
The Super Parental Guardians
Does Vice Ganda know he’s a good comedian? If so, does he know he’s selling himself short? For someone with his potential and level of clout in the entertainment industry, you would expect him to demand better material to work with. But he doesn’t. Instead, he settles for another mediocre comedy which is only good for a few laughs but not much else.
In Joyce Bernal’s “The Super Parental Guardians,” he plays Arci, a social media manager thrust into his godfather role once his best friend Sarah (Matet de Leon) gets murdered EJK-style. She doesn’t necessarily get shot by a masked vigilante, but she does end up dying in Arci’s arms with a knife in her back and placard saying “Adik sa balot. Huwag tularan.” Arci is joined by Paco (Coco Martin), Sarah’s stuntman brother who also happens to be a gang leader. The two decide to cohabitate so they can take better care of Sarah’s orphaned kids Megan (Awra Briguela) and Ernie (Onyok Pineda).
Much like in “Beauty and the Bestie,” Vice and Coco’s 2015 MMFF film, the two play up the gay guy-straight guy shtick. Arci is predatory, advancing on Paco like an in-heat wildebeest. Paco flirts back before rebuffing Arci’s attempts with physical threats. Both have their own struggles. Arci finds it difficult to let these new people into his calculated life, while Paco tries his best to turn his life around. If these weren’t enough, the two have to deal with raising these kids while fighting off a syndicate that wants them dead.
This two-hour vaudeville is entertaining in small, healthy doses. Anything more feels like a waste of neurons. Looking at the list that make up the film’s cast and crew, one can’t help but feel a tinge of sadness. These are talented people. Vice, for example, showed a moment of comedic genius during a Vilma-esque dance sequence that gave me flashbacks of Dolphy at his prime. Sadly, that is wasted. Production could have done so much more by holding back on the gimmicks, sticking to camp if they wanted camp, and tightening the screenplay.
Many of the film’s jokes are one-offs that are overstuffed into a thin, flimsy script, bloating it with news and pop culture references that add nothing to the main story arc. They only serve to satisfy the audience’s short attention span. In one scene, Arci spins a Pokéstop and stalls his assailants with Pokéballs; in another, Baron Geisler and Kiko Matos duke it out while a “Boosan”-bound train full of zombies bursts into flames. Nothing makes sense, and yet everyone still lives happily ever after in the end.
But perhaps the biggest joke of the movie is its ending punchline, when Arci, spinning happily in Paco’s strong arms yells, “Bakit hindi tayo nakapasok sa film fest?” A self-aware Vice probably already knows the answer to that. He deserves to star in a better-written film. The Filipino audience also deserves to get a better film. Alas, we’re stuck with this. — Jansen Musico
Enteng Kabisote 10 and the Abangers
The title “Enteng Kabisote 10 and the Abangers” might strike one as grammatically incorrect. Something like “Enteng Kabisote and the Abangers” makes more conventional sense, as does “Enteng Kabisote 10: The Abangers,” which more clearly conveys the fact that it refers to the 10th installment in a fantasy-comedy film franchise that may or may not have overstayed its welcome.
As it turns out, though, the peculiar phrasing is borne out by a scene late in the film. In the scene in question, the title character (played, as always, by Vic Sotto, but here aged by silver hair dye in addition to the natural passage of time) gets suited up à la Iron Man in a robotic exoskeleton and breaks the fourth wall to introduce his new and improved self: “Enteng Kabisote, version 10,” flanked for good measure by a ragtag group of supernatural beings with superpowers who call themselves the Abangers, supposedly because they fancy themselves Avengers on perennial standby.
But long before then, one realizes that the movie’s odd title format is the least of its problems. In spite of its relatively high level of polish (notably for its steampunk-inspired production design and video game-based special effects), it’s neither an acceptable apery nor a passable parody of Marvel’s superhero films. On the contrary, it tries to do many disparate things one after the other, and in the process fails to tell a story that has the slightest semblance of coherence and order.
The movie’s through line, as it were, concerns the villainous Doctor Kwak Kwak (Epi Quizon doing his best, or probably worst, impression of Heath Ledger’s Joker) and his search for the Abangers, but it simply cannot hold fast amid the tangled mess of extraneous subplots and dismal digressions. There’s the game app that hypnotizes its players into slashing at the people around them — supposedly a cautionary tale about the social repercussions of getting too sucked into the black mirrors of phones and tablets. There’s the drawn-out family drama between Enteng and his increasingly independent children, which prompts him to take a solitary soul-searching trip to an island resort, which in turn, for no apparent reason other than blatant fan service, sees the appearance of two characters who amount to no more than thinly fictionalized portrayals of the “are they or aren’t they” couple who play them.
And even as it spares no effort in looking and sounding up to date on the ways of the millennial (as evidenced by the hard-to-miss allusions to things like Facebook Live and Pokémon Go), the latest version of “Enteng Kabisote” seems resigned to reusing internet memes well past their sell-by date and recycling old jokes, not to mention a certain trio of old characters in drag, from “Eat Bulaga.” More buggy than funny, this so-called upgrade is anything but. — Aldrin Calimlim