Metro Manila Film Festival 2017: Gandarrapiddo: The Revenger Squad Proves Vice Ganda Needs a Complete Overhaul

TL;DR: Ganpdarrapido: The Revenger Squad throws in a couple of tweaks to Vice Ganda’s formula, but it only highlights how tired, mean & cynical this endeavor has become.

Gandarrapido: The Revenger Squad is Vice Ganda on autopilot. No amount of flashy special effects can hide that his brand of caustic, reference-heavy, insult humor has become lazy & tired. It’s unfortunate since it’s trying to say something substantial about the world we live in, but it’s hindered by the man at the center of the movie.

Meme (Vice Ganda) & Chino (Daniel Padilla) are siblings living under one roof with their friends Bul-Dog (Wack Kiray), Bok-Bok (Lassy Marquez), Luz-Luz (MC Calaquian) & a young boy named Enrique Heal (Justin Quulantang). They also have a neighbor named Peppa (Karla Estrada) who often goes inside their house & joins their antics. Meme is very strict to Chino, controlling every aspect of his life. She does have good intentions, doing it to protect her brother; who often gets himself into trouble & bounces from one job to another. However, Chino wants nothing more than to do whatever he wants without Meme’s approval.

He may just get his wish. It turns out he will gain powers on his 21st birthday, which he inherited from his evil father Madman (RK Bagatsing). It’s a secret kept by Peppa & the rest of their friends to Chito & Meme, since they used to be a group of superheroes which Meme was a part of – as the titular Gandarra – & they’ve been trying to keep a low profile after Meme suffered from amnesia, forgetting her superhero past. After recovering Meme’s past as a superhero, they will do their best to protect Chino from the likes of Kweenie (Pia Wurtzbach), a villainous woman with powers who spreads fake news in order to spread chaos & confusion among the masses.

Like The Super Parental Guardians, it’s trying to tackle important issues in our society through Vice Ganda’s glib, irreverent comedic style, but handles it so much better compared to the previous movie. This time, they’re making a stance against misinformation & its effects. While it’s not a deep exploration of how fake news ruin lives & undermine democratic societies, it’s better integrated into the plot & even has parallels with Meme, Chino, & Kweenie’s storylines. It helps that the movie has a stance against fake news, instead of flirting with the issue without saying anything meaningful.

Another aspect that makes it an improvement over The Super Parental Guardians is the improved integration action & comedy. The action scenes are well choreographed & much clearer, while the jokes act as punctuation. The production values are also top-notch for a Filipino production, full of splashy, bright colors atypical of recent superhero movies & decent special effects.

But what drags the movie towards abject mediocrity is Vice Ganda herself. He does the same shtick we’ve seen before & there are no attempts to improve or innovate upon it. It wouldn’t be a problem if the jokes are funny or have actual bite in them, but most of it are recycled riffs from his former work or references whose shelf life is already expired by the time the movie comes out; hope you like forced Baby Shark & Nyeam jokes! Some of these jokes stand out for being hateful & surprisingly homophobic; like Chino forcing two male minions to kiss, which is funny because people love to treat gays as punchlines instead of actusl human beings. Admittedly, some bits are hilarious, like a couple of fourth-wall jokes, but it’s so rare they feel like aberrations to the movie’s norm. The movie’s laziness overwhelms the movie that it counteracts whatever goodwill it has in the first place.

Gandarrapido: The Revenger Squad might’ve been made as the huge crowdpleaser of the MMFF, and they definitely succeeded, since it looks like it’s the highest grossing film of the festival. But if this is going to be a sign of things moving forward, let’s hope they’ll be willing to improve his style to stop it from being stale & uninspired. The families who flock to his movies deserve better.

Movie Review: The Super Parental Guardians Makes Light of Duterte’s Drug War But Fails Miserably

In the movie’s final moments, Arci (Vice Ganda) grabs Paco (Coco Martin), lifts him up, spins him around, & asks out loud why they weren’t included in this year’s Metro Manila Film Festival. The movie was infamously shut out of the festival this year, along with other MMFF mainstays like Enteng Kabisote & Mano Po, due to an overhaul that valued artistic excellence over commercial viability.

After watching the movie, the answer becomes clear: it was shut out because it was terrible. It’s a shocking drop of quality after Beauty & the Bestie, the action-comedy that first teamed up Vice Ganda & Coco Martin with enjoyable results.

The problems start with the complicated, poorly structured plot. Arci is an assistant of a famous fashion designer Marife dela Cruz (Assunta de Rossi) who dreams of becoming a fashion designer himself & living in South Korea. Paco works as a stuntman who’s a magnet for trouble thanks in part to his street gang. When his sister Sarah, Arci’s best friend, is killed after witnessing an extra-judicial killing late at night, Arci is entrusted to take custody of her two children Megan (Awra Briguela) & Ernie (Onyok Pineda) to grant Sarah’s dying wish. Neil is reluctant at first, but because of his concerns with his nephews, he eventually agrees. He moves in along with his nephews in Arci’s “mansion,” which is really Marife’s house & Arci is just the caretaker. With Arci & Neil living in the same house, they try their best to raise the two kids & find out who murdered Sarah.

It’s a politically charged conceit loaded with a bunch of promising storylines, but the movie couldn’t service all of them in an orderly fashion. The complex plot moves in zigs & zags, advancing whenever the script demands it, instead of allowing it to come out organically. Vice Ganda’s movies are just better when the plot is simple, making it easier to add a ton of jokes & references.

It doesn’t help that it splits its characters into different groups for most of the running time, cutting down the opportunity for Vice Ganda’s signature barbed lines. When they do get a chance, it’s wasted on badly written references to Pokemon Go, Train to Busan, & Ang Probinsyano, & second-rate one-liners. Of course, there are a few funny jokes, but all of them were shown in the trailer.

The movie tackling Duterte’s drug war & extra-judicial killings might have made it more interesting, but it wastes its opportunity to comment on it. If you’re expecting either a scathing indictment or unwavering support for the drug war, you’re going to be very disappointed. By the movie’s end, it all fizzles out to deliver a happy ending by dropping certain storylines. It only uses the drug war as a backdrop & nothing more, trying its best to be apolitical about it. It’s a decision oozing with either sheer laziness or inability to say something so they couldn’t offend its audience.

Even if the jokes & story fall flat, at least it is shot well. The production values for Vice Ganda’s movies are certainly getting better. Bb. Joyce Bernal handles the action scenes with a style ripped straight from Ang Probinsyano – shaky cams, zoom-ins, & jump cuts – but it is more comprehensible & less prone to dramatic stings compared to its inspiration. The use of drone shots rise slightly above “gimmicky” too.

However, the mix of comedy & action is another reminder of how bad it is. The jokes in the action scenes just aren’t funny & the pacing is off, since the way Bb. Joyce Bernal uses Ang Probinsyano’s aesthetic isn’t conducive for comedy. It sucks the air out of already terrible jokes & doesn’t allow the comedians to have room for their performances.

At least, everyone in the cast is great. It is already well established that Vice Ganda has a sharp comedic timing & Coco Martin can go toe-to-toe with him, especially if you’ve seen the much better Beauty & the Bestie. Awra Briguela is given a bigger spotlight here & he takes full advantage of it. Yes, he’s another stereotypical gay kid, but he can spout his snarky lines with the ferocity of a cynical adult. Onyok Pineda is very young & it shows in his performance. It’s understandable. He delivers his lines like he’s reading out of a children’s book. Even the movie is aware of this, giving him fewer stuff to do compared to the rest of the cast, but making sure that he makes an impact. I hope he gets better with age.

Unfortunately, this movie will never be good. It’s a movie built on a premise with the potential to speak out on our current political climate, but only uses it to deliver a sloppy story filled with unfunny jokes. It’s the worst kind of entertainment: incompetent & inoffensive to the point it becomes offensive.