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MANILA, Philippines – Veteran director Wenn Deramas may have found a new muse in up and coming comedian Joey Paras.
After hedging his bets on iconic funny lady Ai-Ai Delas Alas and on the sharp-tounged superstar Vice Ganda, the comedy director is taking a gamble on the comic talents of the relatively unknown Paras. While Paras has been known for playing second fiddle to other more recognized comedians, Bekikang is his first lead role in a major motion picture. But despite his lack of star power, Paras makes a worthy run for the box-office with a debut that is as ridiculous as it is entertaining.
Bekikang (Joey Paras) is the gay breadwinner of a growing family, but he has had little time to think about starting a family of his own. Unfortunately, his unloving stepmother and callous stepsister have all but ruined Beki’s sense of family. But when an old flame asks Beki to take care of his newborn son, Beki discovers that real family needn’t be bound by blood.
It’s a premise that takes its time to pick up steam. Thankfully, the film is kept brisk because of Beki’s naive affection for the well-intentioned Fortune (Tom Rodriguez). While their love story (or the lackthereof) is hardly convincing, their short-lived flirtation does form a plausible basis for Beki’s eventual adoption of the young and intelligent Pot Pot (JM Ibañez). The film results in a light hearted, though escapist, story about family.
Bekikang delivers an odd cocktail of drama and comedy that has always been signature to Deramas’ work. But unlike previous efforts, there is a commendable amount of restraint to his current technique. Scenes never quite reach Deramas’ trademark excessiveness and aptly avoid the pitfalls of going too big with its gags. While the film still suffers from the occasional cheap prank and ill-placed punchline, Bekikang is a surprising step above the usual Deramas comedy.
Deramas’ brand of oddball humor is still unmistakably present, but the lack of forced pop culture references and fast forward antics is a refreshing update to his directorial style. The film is a far stretch from winning Deramas any new fans, but it’s a much-needed update to a style of comedy that has a lot to do with Paras’ own talent as both a comedian and as an actor.
Although Paras is the obvious star of Bekikang, it’s his comic co-stars Atak Arana, Lassy Marquez and Nikki Valdez that help round up the film’s most effective punchlines. The chemistry of the comic quartet provides a convincing foundation for a majority of the film’s comedy, and serves up more than your usual order of slapstick and screwball.
While critics have compared Paras to co-comedian Vice Ganda, the Bekikang star provides a comic style that is indisputably his own. Unlike Ganda’s sarcastic quips or Delas Alas’ penchant for theatrics, there is a casual naivety that underlines Paras’ doe-eyed comedy. It keeps the film from spinning erratically into heavy handed melodrama or mind-numbing comedy. Instead, it strikes an unsteady balance between the two and manages to make the comedy rise above the drama. Unfortunately, it’s far more effective at accomplishing the former than the latter.
Waterfall of tears
The comedy of Bekikang may take little to no effort, but its drama, on the other hand, requires a bit too much. Towards the film’s end, Bekikang turns into a never ending waterfall of sobs and tears. The cast parades itself in a display of soap operatic acting prowess, and end up watering down any kind of genuine drama Bekikang may have to offer. While the film swings erratically from noon-time comedy to soap opera melodrama, Paras’ comic levity keeps the film from spinning out of control in either direction.
But despite Bekikang’s attempt at larger themes like family and fatherhood, the film makes no aspiration to do anything drastically different. Its intentional brand of cartoonish comedy makes Bekikang as entertaining as it is escapist.
Though Beki himself ends up being more caricature than character, it’s a safe bet tailored to tickle the fancy of the masses.
Bekikang is an obvious attempt to launch Paras as the next big Viva entertainer; and only time will tell if he’s a worthy enough follow up to previous Deramas muses like Ai-Ai Delas Alas or Vice Ganda. But truth be told, it isn’t for lack of trying.
Bekikang has Joey Paras set for the top. Regardless of the box-office turn out, it seems that Paras is getting there, one way or the other.
Watch the trailer here:
Zig Marasigan is a freelance screenwriter and director who believes that cinema is the cure for cancer. Follow him on twitter at @zigmarasigan.