Right from the start, Kim Tai-sik’s Sunshine Family makes it clear that it is adamantly quirky.
It is a film that will push for strangeness piling upon strangeness in an effort to mine comedy out of human irrationality. Its opening salvo is a brisk sequence that reveals the stark dysfunctions of a family uprooted from the Philippines for a better life in South Korea in a wacky situation of waking up to a car inside their living room.
A chuckle or two
The opening visual alone is sure to grant a chuckle or two.
Unfortunately, it is the sustainability of the film’s brand of comedy that makes it a one trick pony. Sunshine Family excels in carving punchlines from the family’s very many misfortunes but it struggles to infuse authentic humanity in its cast of blatantly imperfect characters. While the film can be really funny, it is rarely affecting. It is a comedy that frustratingly borders on being unbearably excessive.
It isn’t so much that the film is lacking in opportunities to paint another side to its family of miscreants.
In fact, the film has for each of the members of the family narrative threads that allow them more wiggle room to showcase their humanity beyond their illogical behavior. The father (Nonie Buencamino) becomes stricken with guilt for running over a girl one drunken night. The mother (Shamaine Buencamino) suddenly rises to the occasion to keep her family intact. The daughter (Sue Ramirez) is struggling to maintain her romantic relationship with a young cop (Park Ji-won). The son (Marco Masa) is on the verge of discovering his identity.
What’s clear is that the film is far too busy for its own good. It rushes carelessly to tie everything together, spending as little as possible time for character development in favor of jokes that have become repetitive to the point of tedium. Sunshine Family is a film that desperately needs breathing space.
Thankfully, the film is finely acted.
Nonie and Shamaine Buencamino shine in the scenes that allow short glimpses of their characters’ more tender facets. While they are commendable comedians who are more than capable of poking fun at their characters’ gross imperfections, it is their attempt to mold layers beyond the abundant hijinks that showcase both their experience and maturity as actors. Lesser performers would have just settled on relying on slapstick to make any lasting impression.
Still, Sunshine Family ends up to be just a tiring experience.
It is far too focused on chaos, too delighted on seeing its characters stressed out and suffering. It is all about dysfunction and neglects that there should be rhyme and reason to ground the madness, to make all the reprehensible acts being paraded as humor truly palatable. The film is more boisterous than bold. It is loud without being substantial. It skirts possible issues that could have made it more than just a comedy of errors.
Watching Sunshine Family is like watching a man trip on a banana peel and being forced to laugh at that person’s misfortune just because of the odd circumstance of his fall. It’s a fun time at the cinemas but it doesn’t really make you a better person. —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.