MANILA, Philippines – I knew coming into this film that it would not be invested with much intellectual currency. Rather, it would rely on familiar beats, familiar situations, familiar jokes. There wasn’t much surprise in that.
In all honesty, there was nothing that surprised me about “Si Agimat, Si Enteng, at Si Ako,” except that it was just extremely politically incorrect. The misogynist tendencies on display are only the beginning. The friend whom I watched the film with was often decrying the fact that this would be watched by so many people and it would convey some of the worst possible values.
I am not one to judge films solely on the basis of the value systems they espouse, and I am sure that the filmmakers were not too worried about that either. But my friend has a point, and a closer viewing of this film will reveal an extremely outdated, oppressive paradigm at work. Small attempts at “feminism” appear, but these are all too quickly and easily brushed aside.
Oh, but I guess I am looking at this in the wrong way. I am sure there is a reader thinking, God, dude, can’t you just have some fun with this? So I will set aside all of the deeper implications of the film, and try and think about why I didn’t have as much fun as I should have had with this flick.
I want to put forward that I have been a fan of Filipino comedy, that I liked the good old Tito, Vic and Joey, that I loved the Joey de Leon-Rene Requiestas comedies (though a repeat viewing now shows that they hardly hold up, but hey, they were fun when I was kid) and so I thought that I might have a bit of fun with this flick.
First big problem: a lot of it is a commercial. I am not even complaining about product placement here, which I actually appreciate when it is done in ways which make the product a part of the narrative. I mean, that there are big chunks of it that give way to straight up commercials in-film.
This is a point where I think a trust is being betrayed between viewer and filmmaker. I understand the economics of filmmaking, I understand the need for products and sponsors. But to put in a whole friggin’ commercial? I am LOOKING AT YOU, SUN CELLULAR. They aren’t the only culprits, but theirs has to be the most tasteless among them. There are so many commercials that, well, it’s a surprise that we’re even treating this as a feature.
Next is that there is no clear narrative. The “story” begins when Bong Revilla’s Agimat weds Sam Pinto’s Samara. They decide that they want to experience the happiness of living in our world. This leads to a sitcom set-up which we follow for a larger part of the flick.
The fish-out-of-water format leads to some rather predictable jokes which the movie squeezes for laughs. Lots of slapstick and supposed hilarity from misunderstandings ensue. No real tension driving the movie. It’s really just a meandering flick with scenes following each other without any real narrative movement.
Then a Sward-speaking evil alien crashes and mounts an invasion which the 3 titular “superheroes” (yes, they refer to themselves as such in the film) and the rest of the gang fight, and that is also a way to end the movie.
I also found that Judy Ann Santos’s acting chops were on display. She committed to the character, and among everyone in the movie, she probably has the best moments. It is unfortunate, though, that this movie has her also dabbling in possible infidelities (she never commits any, but she clearly falls for BOTH of the other married characters, and they entertain her attention).
Also problematic is that the two women playing Agimat’s and Enteng’s wives — Sam Pinto and Gwen Zamora — while more traditionally beautiful than Santos, are no match for her acting. They can hardly stand up to her, even though story-wise they should have a proper measure of moral righteousness behind them.
Another thing is that, well, sure we know that the character of Agimat is a badass. He kicks butt, he’s a warrior and all that. But I think we’re forgetting a crucial thing about watching heroes, and it’s that it can only be exciting if there is a chance that the hero can fail.
Agimat wastes whole friggin’ villages without his hair getting messed up. I felt that if the action were to have some meaning, then there had to be something at stake. We should feel that our primaries might lose.
But then this may be me thinking a bit too much about a movie which most people will dismiss, and others will scoff at me for bothering to think about.
Suffice to say that this also isn’t the kind of movie that is made for me. There is an audience for it, obviously, as it’s a top grosser. If this is your kind of thing, the extended ad libs and slapstick and wacky, goofy comedy capped with some action, well and good.
A giant pink hulk might also be a selling point. Whatever. – Rappler.com
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The 38th Metro Manila Film Festival will run from December 25, 2012 to January 7, 2013 in cinemas nationwide. For more information, visit the official MMFF website.
(Carljoe Javier teaches at the UP Department of English and Comparative Literature. He has written a few books, most recently the new edition of The Kobayashi Maru of Love available from Visprint Inc. and the upcoming Writing 30 available as an ebook at amazon, ibookstore, b&n and flipreads.com.)