Yzsazsa.gifesterday, Cathy and I took time off from all the Christmas revelry to watch Carlo Vergara‘s Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh at the SM North EDSA Cinema 6. It was the first Filipino MMFF film I’d seen since Mano Po years ago. (Image lifted off the official movie website – a shame that this particular pic isn’t available for wallpaper.)

I’ve supported Carver’s exceptionally funny graphic novel since I bought a copy of the comic book years back, and was apprehensive about the film, knowing how Filipino movies tend to let me down. I’ve even given away copies of the comic book to friends for Christmas. Not to support the gay subculture or anything, but I just think Zaturnnah is a funny, moving piece of literature. One of my favorite reading materials of all time – never fails to make me laugh. The film, therefore, had a lot to live to. My review after the jump.

Cathy had a blast. Me, not so much.

Acting. Rustom Padilla, as Ada, deserves an acting nomination for his work. He brought nuances to Ada that neither Cathy nor I saw. Kudos, also, to the costume design people who dressed him – impeccable work. Also deserving of acting props are Zsa Zsa Padilla in the title role, who delivers a sassy performance that almost perfectly matches Ada’s qualities; Alfred Vargas as Dodong, who is more than adequate as the movie’s eye candy (I want his skin! Not a pore in sight!); and Chokoleyt, as Didi, both annoying and endearing. Not so much Pops Fernandez, who delivers a mechanical performance devoid of nasty substance. She was neither evil enough to hate, nor strong enough to suspend the belief that she led a revolution against the male-forms of Planet XXXxxxxx… What happened, Regal Films? Couldn’t get Cherie Gil, Princess Punzalan, or Agot Isidro?

Script and Treatment. I want to shoot the scriptwriter. He moved away from the original so much, that several parts of the movie dragged on and on. Introducing new characters – useless, screen time-eating characters like Pauleen Luna, Luna’s boyfriend, and Christian Vasquez as a vapid a husband for an equally vapid Aling Britney (what happened? Couldn’t get Bella Flores?) – as well as deviating away from characters who could’ve added more meat to the film – like the four Amazonistas and making the horny Catholic priest Father Bernie a mere sideshow – was script suicide.

Special Effects. While light-years behind Western cinema, this film certainly has its fair share of quality effects. Kudos to the Multimedia team of Regal Entertainment for a cute frog, Ada’s stone-swallowing efforts, Zsa Zsa’s tree throwing, the Matrix-y fight scenes, and Ada’s father ripping his head off. Less few points, though, for still being unable to master the art of making Zsa Zsa fly. Oh, and that car thrown at Pops – cheap! The costumes were pretty good though (great job finding that leopard print shirt on Dodong – faithful to the book!). Set design wasn’t bad, although if you’re talking about a little barrio town, what in heaven’s name justifies such a huge antiquated church??

Music. The trailer didn’t give me the impression that there were going to be signficant song numbers in this film, and as a result, the film came across with a schizophrenic quality. Is it a musical? Is it a straight-forward film? Musicals should give us the impression that to break into song is expected – take a tip from Chicago and the soon-to-be-released-in-Manila Dreamgirls, which I cannot wait enough for – and this film’s songs come in as jarring. They break from the flow. The lyrics can’t be understood. And for the most part, the singers really aren’t that good. So what’s the point?

At the end of the day, Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh left me strangely unsettled. It was funny, but not riproaringly so. It wasn’t too faithful to the original, nor was it as catchy, apparently, as the musical, which, to date, Cathy and I still have not seen. In an industry that needs something new, Carver’s comic book was the perfect answer, and it comes across as something relatively hollow and unmemorable. Tsk.

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