'Boy Tokwa: Lodi ng Gapo' review: As bland as cheap tofu
Tony Y. Reyes has made a career making movies from stitched-together gags of comedians starting with Redford White and Roderick Paulate to Joey de Leon and the Sotto brood.
His recent movies DOTGA: The One That Ghost Away (2018), starring Kim Chiu and Ryan Bang, and Barbi: D’ Wonder Beki (2017), headlined by Paolo Ballesteros, could have been the vehicles for Reyes to flex his creative muscles. Those were projects where the unstopping gags are supposed to just support cleverer conceits.
In the case of DOTGA, the gags are framed in a plot involving scammers getting their comeuppance as they venture into a real haunted house. On the other hand, Barbi sees the revival of the character made famous by Joey de Leon in this age that is seemingly more accepting of transgender persons.
However, Reyes squanders the projects, churning out the same kind of giggly garbage that he has been making in droves for decades.
DOTGA is more irritating than it is funny, and it doesn’t even attempt to be scary. Barbi is even more confusing than its predecessor as it parades its obvious advocacy while propagating stereotypes for easy laughs.
Boy Tokwa: Lodi ng Gapo, Reyes’ latest offering, again presents the director an opportunity to shine.
The film is a loose biography of legendary conman Rodrigo Morelos, played here by Jose Manalo. Morelos, at least according to the film penned by Earl Bontuyan and Renz Nicodemus, found his fortune scamming American soldiers in Subic. Consistent with most of Reyes’ crass comedies, Boy Tokwa spends a lot of time having its protagonist flirt with pretty women, while brandishing a quasi-nationalistic slogan wherein Morelos, for whatever lofty reason, only cons foreigners and never his countrymen, making him some sort of a Robin Hood-like figure.
Morelos’ story, whether bloated by Reyes and his team for entertainment’s sake or not, isn’t lacking the drama and the derring-do to stand on its own feet without all the irrelevant and irreverent barbs and slapstick that a Reyes movie is usually reliant on. Even Morelos’ attraction to foreign women adds an intriguing layer to the character, one that speaks volumes about the post-colonial mentality of the men who have carved livelihoods from their proximity with Americans.
Truly, Boy Tokwa is just pregnant with possibilities.
Frustratingly, Reyes again squanders a golden opportunity.
Boy Tokwa is an endless chain of inanities begging for some sort of respectability by parading as a rags-to-riches tale based on a true story. The film’s period aspirations are realized in the laziest of ways, with scenes set in locations that will only partially pass for places from decades ago.
Sadly, the film is only consistent in how illogical it is.
In 7 years’ time, Morelos, played as a young adult by Buboy Villar, suddenly looks old, as he is now played by Manalo donning a wig. Given that the film seems sensitive to how quickly its characters age, it comes as a surprise when the son of Morelos’ best friend (Allan Paule) doesn’t seem to grow up despite years passing by.
Instead of fully earning pathos for Morelos by investing in his characterization, the dramatic scenes are staged like gags, where a convenient set-up is immediately followed by pronounced crying.
For example, while Morelos is in prison, without a precursor, sudden news about his mother passing away results in him bursting in tears and sobs. All of a sudden, a letter from Morelos’ wife wherein she verbosely says she is leaving him has him lamenting.
Those scenes could have made a sliver of impact if the relationships between Morelos and his mother or his wife weren’t clichéd or formulaic. As a result, Manalo isn’t given the opportunity to shine as a proper actor playing a proper character. He is simply given directions to joke around or cry without any compelling motivations.
No sense and nonsense
Boy Tokwa just doesn’t make any real sense.
It exists to mine nonsense out of a real person’s history. Its humor is stale. Its drama is pale. It’s as bland as cheap tofu. – Rappler.com
Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass.