the thin line between comedy and corny

…or in short, here is what I think of two comedies I saw recently.


d. s. Joey Reyes

c. featuring the old Working Girls from Ishma’s movies with new stars of today

Pitch: The 1984 characters get their lives updated, but now featuring a newer batch of girls working for money, pride, and love.

Catch: Please don’t call it a sequel, lest you want Ishmael Bernal turning on his grave.

I don’t know why writers — and filmmakers, at that — have to hold on to something that’s already a classic and put in their, um, two hours’ worth in it to create another film. In short, I don’t understand why Joey Reyes had to get the characters of the great Ishmael Bernal’s 1984 film and update them. Fine, the guy has his moments but Ishmael Bernal he is not, and Amado Lacuesta he is not, either.

The reason why we love that ’80s classic is because the directing, the pacing and the brilliant storylines and characterizations all worked together well. Now please don’t touch that and make another movie instead. This is what Joey Reyes ought to have done instead of building on Lacuesta’s characters and making another movie out of it. Luz.

Imagine the classic lines that ’80s film gave us, most notably Carmi Martin’s lovelorn sexy secretary as she said over the phone “Sabeeeeel, this must be loooove!” sabay tumba nang gulatin siya ng crush niya sa likod. That is a classic. Now fast forward to 2010 and see a botox-acting Carmi Martin saying a rehashed version of that line delivered with the same intonation, this time not over the phone but in person to Rio Locsin, as she said “Sabeeeel, I am always in looooove.” Oh my gulay nalaglag yata ako sa upuan ko when I heard that. Come on! You do not “upgrade” classic lines of Philippine cinema like that! Haysus. Imagine if he “upgraded” another Ishma classic — “Walang himala! Nasa puso ang himala!” Sinasabi ko sa iyo, kapag bumangon si Ishma, tumakbo na tayo. Hayst…

I wish Reyes just opted to create a comedy without these Working Girls  reference. It certainly is not a remake, and the update is very lame. But if you take it as a totally new movie, and entitle it like THE LATEST EUGENE DOMINGO COMEDY VEHICLE, then it would have worked. This is because he had a good ensemble with him, with Eugene Domingo as the latest comedy queen of cinema dishing out her brand of humor as the lower middle class housewife who wants Arreneow-accented kids while running her bag-selling business on Multiply.Com, then there’s the call center young single mom saga by the pretty comebacking Jennelyn Mercado, a not-so-far-from-her-other-acting-roles glam widow Ruffa Gutierrez battling it out with her late husband’s relative Cherie Gil, then the nurse with a broken hearted past played by Iza Calzado, a young US-educated upstart Bianca King playing a segment producer in a network run by wolf-ish women (sound familiar?), and the sexy and hilarious Cristine Reyes as this model-model-an social climbing Facebook addicted girl. Ayus.

multihun kayo ni Ishma sige

But with so many good actors, there were not so many good storylines to carry all that talent. The basics were there, but in the end, it seemed like Reyes didn’t know how to end this movie, how to intertwine clearly and seamlessly the narratives of each character. Sayang. It appeared more like a two-hour pilot for a TV show, not a 2-hour movie. Oh well.

Bottom line: next time, don’t touch Ishma’s creations. With a ten foot pole.

Reyes could also maybe look at others who are doing something else, like the next one.


d. s. Chris Martinez

c. a bunch of talented theater actors who crossed over successfully to mainstream cinema

Pitch: One freak accident under an astronomical phenomenon produces a handful of out-of-the-body experiences right before a wedding.

Catch: Can you say FREAKY FRIDAY  times 5 set on a beach? I thought not.

Now this is a “written-and-directed-by” piece that we should watch, because it’s funny! The handful of theater/stage-trained actors in this ensemble thrown together with some mainstream cinema and television “veterans” (not of age but of longtime exposure in media) makes for a good film, if only they have the right material. And the material, while not very excellent in itself, is very commercial, hence it works for the kind of project it wants to make — a commercial comedy film.

The FREAKY FRIDAY basic storyline gets juiced up five times as we see not just two characters’ personalities invading each other’s bodies but we see many characters, all good ones I should add — an old-school gay beautician este image stylist who still believes that being gay meant not having relationships with fellow gays but with straight men (Jon Lapus) whose personality/soul was yanked out of his gay body and put inside the body of the conservative prim and proper bride (Angelika Panganiban), whose personality in turn was put inside her ninang who’s a longtime soltera but a successfully strong lawyer (Eugene Domingo), whose personality in turn was put inside a meek api-apihan poor Visayan yaya of a middle class brat (Tuesday Vargas), whose personality was in turn placed inside a  sometimes Spanish-speaking geriatric Valentino-type of old man (Jaime Fabregas), whose personality was placed inside the gay beautician este image stylist. Hay, nahilo ka na? Well, you get it.

So mix-and-match such oddball characters, place them within the set-up of a beach-side wedding, and you’ll get laughs galore, not some cheap tricks like remaking lines of classic movies. In fact, the mix-and-match produced classic lines right there and then, with Angelika Panganiban’s brilliant take as the gay beautician, as she speaks gay lingo and says “Pak!” whenever she gets her picture taken. If only for these “Pak!” scenes you should watch! Grabe benta! And then there’s Jon Lapuz playing it more than straight but macho even, wooing the character of Carissa Cortez hahah! Funny lot. And then the yaya spewing lines from the Labor Code of the Philippines whenever her “amo” and “alaga” would disobey or disagree with her hahaha! Galing ni Tuesday! Samaskom ‘yan, e. Actually, most of these peeps are from the UP theater circles, like Jon and Eugene and Carissa.  Hay naku basta funny ito. Just watch! Never mind that Kim Atienza as his Matanglawin self is there. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, just google him.

Now this one had an ending, although it felt a bit belabored because the comedy was kind of pushed (the let’s-recreate-the-accident-so-they-could-hopefully-go-back-to-normal scenes). Still, it was better than that other comedy.

I hope this is still out. Go and watch it. Now na. Pak!


6 thoughts on “the thin line between comedy and corny

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