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'The Super Parental Guardians' review: Comedy against the backdrop of a harsh reality

Comedy is a powerful thing. 

In an age of very harsh realities, we are united in our quest for levity. The most powerful comedies are those that are not only content in uniting humanity in laughter, but in ideology or action. It isn’t enough that the comedy find humor in the absurdities of real life. It needs to do so with a staunch stand. 

Diving board for hilarity

Joyce Bernal’s The Super Parental Guardians uses the ills of contemporary society as its diving board, an opening for hilarity. 

Set in a world that isn’t as far-fetched as it looks, the film sees people murdered in the streets, all of them bearing hastily prepared cardboard signs that declare them as addicts – of earbuds, balut, and all other absurd things. The film knows the current situation and utilizes that patent absurdity to launch a story about surrogate parents who become involved in a world of masked murderers operating by way of impunity.

Screengrab from YouTube/Star Cinema

Its characters all make use of the familiar tropes. Vice Ganda plays the flamboyant assistant to a general’s wife. Coco Martin is a prominent member of an alley gang that is under threat of being wiped out by the anti-criminality campaign. The two mismatched partners are united when Martin’s sister (Matet de Leon) is mysteriously murdered, leaving her two sons (Awra Briguela & Onyok Pineda) without guardians.

 

The plot is unsurprisingly threadbare, which leaves plenty of room for Vice Ganda to perform the rowdy routines the star is famous for. The film is most vibrant when it temporarily retreats from telling a story to concentrate on nonsensical skits and sketches. It is however worth noting that the screenplay (the work of Danno Kristoper Mariquit of Sisterakas (2012) and The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin (2014) fame; and Alpha Habon of Ang Turkey Man ay Pabo Din (2013), Buy Now, Die Later (2015), and Van Damme Stallone (2016)) is not one without imagination.

Dangerous nonsense

Screengrab from YouTube/Star Cinema

The story actually offers opportunities for the film to graduate beyond the inanity that could have been housed in one of Vice Ganda’s daily shows, except that all such opportunities are squandered for guilt-free and convenient hilarity.

The film fails to be the powerful thing it could and should have been. It is all empty nonsense, and that is quite a dangerous thing.

But still, the film isn’t as harmless as it looks. In its earnest effort to be both current and entertaining, it desensitizes the public to the horrors of whatever is happening in society. The problem here is that the film is not interested in being satirical, or being a parody, or being relevant. It is only interested in being mindlessly entertaining, carelessly utilizing whatever is familiar to its market for gags and giggles.

The result is a piece of entertainment that has an effect of normalizing what should never be seen or perceived as normal. The Super Parental Guardians has a bigger responsibility not just to make its audience roll with laughter but also to attribute its comedy to something bigger than plain escapism most especially since it recruits a grim setting that is too close to home for comfort. (READ: Out of MMFF 2016, Vice Ganda and Coco Martin see bright side of exclusion)

Serious comedy 

Screengrab from YouTube/Star Cinema

Am I taking The Super Parental Guardians too seriously when it is so obviously made not to be dissected to pieces but just to be enjoyed? Yes, and you should too.

Comedy really is a powerful thing. It is so powerful, it should be taken seriously. 

At a time like this, all we have is our ability to laugh at the gravest of situations to unite us as a people. There is nothing wrong with that. It has moved this nation to withstand the biggest of calamities and the most vicious of leaders. Comedy however should also unite us in sensitivity. 

Screengrab from YouTube/Star Cinema

Surely, there is something inherently wrong when both parents and their kids are boisterously laughing at the image of a dying mother, a knife in her back, and a placard tied 'round her neck, when it so closely resembles bleak realities that are happening in nearby neighborhoods. Have we as a people become that desensitized to cruelty? – Rappler.com