MANILA, Philippines – Director Wenn V. Deramas has become somewhat of an institution at the Metro Manila Film Festival. Despite his numerous detractors, there’s something to be said about his ability to deliver mass-market humor on a consistent basis.
Although his kind of comedy is admittedly lost on audiences looking for more high-brow laughs, Deramas’ brand of hyperreal, gaudily styled humor has come to define much of the MMFF experience. But with the help of comic superstar Vice Ganda, Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy provides its own brand of slap-in-the-face absurdity.
Mark, Girlie, Peter and Panying Jackstone (all played by Vice Ganda) are quatruplets who are separated not long after their birth. While Mark and Panying are raised by their mother Pia (Maricel Soriano), Girlie and Panying are taken to the States to be raised by their father Peter (Joey Marquez).
Each of the four siblings are defined by their own differing sexual preference, and while this may sound alarmingly sexist, it’s all done in good fun. But when Peter finds himself in need of a liver transplant, the quadruplets are reunited in order to find a matching liver donor to save Peter’s life.
A party of four
On paper, the premise of Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy reads like a medical drama. But with Vice Ganda playing each of the four Jackstone siblings, the result is nothing short of a Filipino-styled Eddie Murphy comedy.
Although Peter’s sickness kicks off the story, Deramas and Vice keep the film lightheartedly candid. For Vice, it’s a juggling act of dizzying proportions. Fortunately, his depiction of the four lead roles are more than just a lazy change of outfit. Each sibling has their own unique comic sensebilities, adding to the dynamic of seemingly dysfunctional Jackstone family.
Though the film does tend to meander, the scenes move briskly enough to keep the punchlines coming. While Deramas doesn’t veer too far off from his trademark brand of goofball comedy, his partnership with Vice Ganda manages to squeeze out an oddly brilliant punchline or two.
Deramas has often been criticized for delivering cheap low-brow comedy; but his humor works particularly well when paired with a comedian as irreverently clever as Vice Ganda. While not all of their gags make their mark, the ones that do offer enough absurd laughs to keep Vice fans entertained.
Unlike other entrants in this year’s festival, Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy feels effortless in its attempt at humor. While the film won’t be winning Deramas any new fans, it’s at least a passionate attempt to amuse and delight.
Deramas’ films have always had a strong sense of family and Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy is no exception. Though the film provides a strong temptation for melodrama, Deramas stays focused on delivering punchlines instead of monologues. Despite Vice’s irreverent humor, the comedy remains family-friendly and in good spirit.
But at it’s heart, Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy is about a family who discovers the true meaning of loyalty and acceptance. While the film is hardly an advocacy for sexual tolerance, it’s a latent reminder of our culture’s acceptance of varying sexualities.
Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy is a family comedy in the truest sense. It is a film made with families in mind, but it’s a story written about a family coming together. While the film certainly won’t please everyone, it will succeed in delighting enough to make it matter.
Barring few exceptions, Deramas is at his best when working alongside Vice Ganda. Audiences still hoping for high-brow punchlines will need to look elsewhere, but for those who want a hilarious and mindlessly entertaining holiday escape, Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy is easily the best family comedy in this year’s festival.
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.
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