December 23, 2009

Ang Tanging Pamilya Review

Ang Tanging Pamilya
Starring Ai-Ai delas Alas and Joseph Estrada
Directed by Wenn Deramas

This blog, you could say, has a bit of a history with Wenn Deramas movies... I mean, out of all the handful of Filipino movies I've reviewed, it seems that a lot of them are works of his. This is sheer coincidence since I'm not always the one who picks movies to watch in the family.

But anyway, let's get a hold of the premise of this installment: Toni Gonzaga is Carlotta, and in her dream she meets a Filipino-American in the form of Sam Milby aka Prince who in sheer serendipity also dreams of the same thing. Carlotta is a member of the family of Dindo (Estrada) and Sunshine Sikat (Ai-Ai), whose marriage ceremony failed 25 years before. Apparently, in this sub-plot Dindo was extremely late for their wedding as he was too helpful to all the pregnant women he found on the streets and in addition to traffic, it was next to impossible to get to the church in time. To compensate, Dindo would promise a wedding in their 25th anniversary.

So yeah, first off, I just want to say that the love story element, which makes up the bulk of the movie, is utterly saccharine. I mean, for the first half of the movie, I preferred that I was in that pilot's chair in Toni's dream, gargling my saliva due to venom. That part was that bad. And how about that part where Prince has to impress Carlotta's father? It's simply insane and almost as contrived as that of a reality show. I get the inspiration of Meet the Parents, but seriously...

The only thing that actually turned things around was the presence of Aling Dionisia Pacquiao who makes her film debut, and quite frankly I'm kinda impressed with her comic timing and priceless facial expressions. It's in her entrance that the film's general quality picks up as her origins and physical appearance make for a goldmine of silly one-liners, names and puns ripe for the picking, and the writers simply exploited this without fail. I laughed through most of the insult Ai-Ai and Aling Dionisia threw at each other during the course of the film, and somehow they do form a certain chemistry. And that's more than what I can say for the chemistry that former President Joseph Estrada and Ai-Ai possess (or not). Simply put, Joseph Estrada is a bit old for Ai-Ai, so it's hard to maintain a suspension of disbelief. Trust me, this is no comeback, although I have to admit that Estrada kind of still has some of his moves.

But of course, the plot has to progress, and the movie leaves out Aling Dionisia so that the movie can get off its ass and finish. It's not that I think that there's not enough Aling Dionisia in there (in fact, I think the filmmakers knew that too much of her would become annoying), it's just that I found the moments too predictable and lame to even care. And no, not even Sam Milby and Toni Gonzaga's pretty faces can save anything from the love story that simply has to ensue. It feels like going through the motions, and the 'lover is leaving so other lover must catch up before he leaves' thing is just corny. I cringed a lot, so to speak.

But the film overall is a marked improvement over the other Wenn Deramas production that showed this year, there's less of that awful cartoony speed editing, and more of the punchy one-liners we expect out of an Ai-Ai film. Hell, some of the funny lines that come from the movie aren't even one-liners too, which is a welcome achievement for the writing staff.

Still, you can't help but feel that the people behind the film could've done better with the concept they had going, I mean, the concept of the couple who didn't have an actual formal wedding for 25 years, as well as the struggles of a long-distance couple that wants to make it work is really promising for a comedy. In the end, there's something about the potential that feels squandered, and yet I ask myself, "Why am I laughing?" which sorta indicates the fact that they actually put the concept to good use, in a way.

Aside from those mixed feelings, I think this Filipino comedy is watchable, especially if you ignore the cringe-inducing moments of contrived love the Milby-Gonzaga love team emanates here. I mean, the scene-stealer is pretty much Manny Pacquiao's mom, and I think that she's actually worth the price of admission. It's funnier than I expected it to be, yet it also feels like a great opportunity squandered.

Rating: 7/10

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