Movie Review: Enjoyably Buoyant My Fairy Tail Love Story Takes Aim at Fairy Tale Endings

TL;DR: My Fairy Tail Love Story is a fluffy romantic comedy that riffs on Disney’s The Little Mermaid to reveal the complicated nature of love & sacrifice. It takes a while to show its true aims, though.

Early on in the cute & pleasant My Fairy Tail Love Story, an old woman named Lola Gurang (Rubi Rubi) warns Chantel (Janella Salvador), a spoiled, selfish woman who bosses everyone around her, about the mermaid’s curse. She tells the story of a mermaid who frolicked around the island & fell in love with a local fisherman. Chantel barely listens to her story & would rather have fun with her friends, so she cuts her off & claims she knows what happens next: the mermaid turns into a human thanks to a “true love’s kiss.” Chantel leaves in a huff, & under Lola Goreng’s breath, she declares that this isn’t an ordinary mermaid story.

She isn’t lying though. My Fairy Tail Love Story is a clever riff on Disney fairy tales, specifically The Little Mermaid, stuffed within a light romantic comedy for all ages. It’s a full of smart ideas about love in the context of fairy tales that’s already been tackled before, including by Disney themselves, but that doesn’t make it a less admirable effort.

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When Chantel was ignoring Lola Goreng’s advice, she was on an island bought by her father for her 18th birthday; her parents are definitely rich but have separated, & her new stepmother is a nice, caring woman who used to be her nanny. When she picks up a heart-shaped stone at the bottom of the sea, she is cursed to become a mermaid who can never stop singing when she speaks. Both Chantel & her childhood friend Noah (Elmo Magalona) try to find a way to get her body back to normal. Chantel insists she needs to receive a “true love’s kiss,” while Noah insists they return to the island & ask for Lola Goreng’s help. She relents, but in a stroke of luck, the plane of famous international DJ named Ethan – who played in her birthday party – crashed on the same island she was cursed. She decides she’d rather get a true love’s kiss from Ethan & rescues him, which angers Noah, since she’s fallen in love with Chantel but has never told her yet.

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It turns into a cheery, straightforward romantic comedy with elements of farce, as Chantel hides her mermaid form with the help of Noah from everyone, while the three leads are trapped in a typical love triangle. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s delightful enough that it never becomes a bore. Janella Salvador does her best impression of a privileged woman who demands everything to be about her, yet she never pushes Chantel into a grotesque caricature that she becomes overbearing. There’s an innate sweetness to Chantel that makes it easy to root for her. Both Elmo Magalona & Kiko Estrada are fine partners for Salvador & share great chemistry with her.

But it only delivers on Lola Gorang’s promise near the end, when it finally reveals its true intentions. It takes a while to get there, but it’s worth it, as it finally ties every thread in the movie into a treatise about the complicated nature of love & sacrifice in the real world; where a “happily ever after” isn’t always achievable. It does have the unfortunate side effect of piling on everything by the end that it feels rushed. That doesn’t make it less effective. Even if My Fairy Tail Love Story acknowledges that life isn’t a fairy tale, that doesn’t mean happy endings aren’t achievable. A love that ends is a chance to forge a new one that hopefully would last a lifetime.

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Mano Po 7: Tsinoy is a Gorgeous, Overstuffed Movie Reeking with Blandness

TL;DR: Mano Po 7: Tsinoy is a bland, beautifully shot movie full of plots that couldn’t develop properly for two hours.

The latest entry in the long-running Mano Po franchise begins with so much promise. It tells the story of a seemingly perfect Chinese-Filipino family & probes in the cracks within. Debbie and Wilson Wong, played by Jean Garcia & Richard Yap respectively, have been married for 25 years. They have three children: Wilson Jr. (Enchong Dee), Caroline (Janella Salvador), & Catherine (Jana Agoncillo). The celebration of their 25th anniversary is interrupted when Wilson Jr. gives a rambling speech while drunk & creates a commotion, causing embarrassment to his whole family. Wilson is having none of it, so he forces him to go to rehab once again. Inside, he meets a troubled woman named Jocelyn (Jessy Mendiola) that changes his life forever.

That’s not the only problem this family has. Wilson’s relationship with his family has been turbulent. He’s a cold, controlling man who focuses more on his businesses rather than his family & he forces his family to do what he thinks would be better for them instead of what they would rather do, because that’s the way he was raised, which we get to see in flashbacks. The lack of romance between Debbie & Wilson pushes her into the arms of a rugged, heartbroken man named Marco (Jake Cuenca). Meanwhile, Caroline has a passion for singing but instead studies the cello due to her father’s insistence. One of her classmates is Henry (Marlo Santos) which she finds annoying, and she starts to have a crush on her sleazy professor (Kean Cipirano). Amidst all of this, we also get to learn about Wilson’s relationship with her mother (Rebecca Chuaunsu) & his strained relationship with her gay brother (Eric Quizon).

Yes, it’s another tale set focusing on a multi-generational Chinese-Filipino family – it wouldn’t be Mano Po without it – but there’s a lot of weighty material to be mined here. Unfortunately, it wastes that opportunity, opting to go unsurprising places. This movie is drowning in cliches, from the strict Chinese father to the unloved wife, you can easily guess how the story will unravel.

This would’ve been fine if it told these stories with care, but that’s not the case here. There are so many stories not all of them can develop organically. The movie ends up moving to the next story beat because the plot demanded it. The casualties of this approach range from something little, like Debbie’s affair with Marco, since it hinges on Marco not having a single friend he can confide with his problems, to something offensive like Caroline’s story concerning with her professor & her classmate. The whole thing ends up bland & derivative, manufactured to induce emotions to the audience by being completely phony.

Still, the whole thing is tolerable to watch, thanks to the fine acting from the cast, which work well for a family melodrama. There’s no question veterans like Richard Yap, Jean Garcia, & Rebecca Chuaunsu can deliver the right performance for this kind of movie, but Enchong Dee & Janella Salvador can match them with the right amount of histrionics without pushing it over-the-top. Ian Loreños also deserves some credit from crafting beautiful images & sequences, like a single take taking us behind-the-scenes at the Wong’s 25th wedding anniversary, Debbie & Marco’s flirtation in the balcony which will lead them to the bedroom, & the family’s trip to Taiwan. And while the movie’s quick pacing botched every story in it, it does allow it to move smoothly from one scene another.

If only that were enough to turn it into something memorable. This is a bland, overstuffed family melodrama from another long-running franchise with a decent hook. This could’ve been wonderful, but the whole movie ends up nothing more than a shrug.