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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

Dec 30, 2016

Vince & Kath & James Movie Review: A Feel Good Romantic Teen Comedy With Lovable Performances From Joshua Garcia And Julia Barretto

STAR CINEMA is the home of feelgood romantic comedies. It has come up with so many films belonging to the genre, most of which are the type you can easily forget once you get out of the theatre. For the 2016 Metro filmfest, the universe conspired that Star Cinema’s entry is not the annual Vice Ganda comedy they usually field but a well made romcom, “Vince & Kath & James”, directed by Ted Boborol, who also did the fairly well crafted LizQuen movie last year, “Just the Way You Are”.

The material is not new, about a young man who stands in for another guy in courting a girl, first used in “Cyrano de Bergerac”, Edmond Rostand’s play filmed in 1950 starring Jose Ferrer who won the Oscar best actor award for his role as a man who writes love letters for his friend who’s inept with words. Other movies that are offshoots of Cyrano are “Roxanne” (1987), a romcom starring Steve Martin; “Secret Admirer” (1985) with C. Thomas Howell and Kelly Preston, “Whatever It Takes” (2000) starring the geeky Shane West who writes love letters on e-mail for his friend James Franco. There was even a Bollywood movie inspired by Cyrano, “Duet”, and some local movies with other love teams before.

The old formula of a friend posing for another guy in courting a girl has been given a new dressing for millennial viewers in “Vince & Kath & James”. Based on what they call a text serye online that attracted many followers, it’s now done through text messaging and with laptops, to the tune of upbeat love songs. The stars here are two untested newcomers, Joshua Garcia as Vince and dancer Ronnie Alonte as James, plus Julia Barretto as Kath who has been given breaks before with other partners like Enrique Gil and Inigo Pascual, but was not successful.

The three characters all study in the same school. Joshua is attracted to Julia but can’t voice out his feelings for her so he disguises himself as Da Vinci who writes “hugot” lines in his blog. When his cousin Ronnie, the campus heartthrob and top cager, falls for Julia, Joshua creates another character, Var, to woo Julia via text messages.

We all know how this romance will go since the material is already familiar, but in fairness to Boborol and his three screenwriters, they still manage to hook our interest by coming up with lovable characters we really care for. Both Joshua and Julia have personal issues, Joshua with his mom (Ina Raymundo) who left him in the care of his tita (Ana Abad Santos), the mom of Ronnie, and Julia with his dad (Allan Paule) who went to work abroad and abandoned her mom (Shamaine Buencamino) and their family. Both are given their own touching dramatic moments that are still light and never go overboard.

Joshua is definitely one of the best finds of 2016. A product of PBB All In in 2014 where teen, regular and celebrity housemates were combined (with Daniel Matsunaga winning), we first noticed Joshua (who’s from Bauan, Batangas) in the afternoon soap “Nasaan Ka Nang Kailangan Kita” and later, in “The Greatest Love”. He then did a supporting role as Daniel Padilla’s cousin in “Barcelona” where he first really oozed with charisma and star quality.

He now comes into his own as Vince, shining with his very fresh and engaging screen presence and knowing how to handle both his light comic and heavy dramatic moments effectively. He’ll touch your heart in that scene where he tells his mom: “Ma, ipaglaban mo naman ako.” Some folks are now comparing him to John Lloyd Cruz or Alden Richards, but he’s only 19 and we think he’ll better off on his own. His next projects will determine whether he’s really going to be a threat to the likes of the aging JLC and Piolo.

As we’ve said, Julia is “bawing-bawi” in this movie and it’s to her credit that she even allows the script and Joshua to make fun of her “tambok” cheeks. We’ve always found her very charming since we saw her being introduced in the last batch of Star Magic teen talents. It’s just too bad that just when her tandem with Joshua works here (the viewers were swooning with delight in their kilig scenes), she’ll be paired with Ronnie Alonte in her next assignment, the new soap “A Love to Last”. Well, good luck.

Giving them great support are Ina, Shamaine and Mariz Racal who is funny without being OA as Julia’s best friend. As for Ronnie, he suits his role as an air-headed jock who’s so BSS (bilib sa sarili) perfectly. But his acting leaves so much to be desired. He really registers more as the male version of a dumb blonde. You’d truly believe that Jeric Raval is really his dad.

The movie also pays an endearing tribute to the movie of Julia’s aunt, Claudine Barretto, “Got to Believe”, with the late Rico Yan (this was his last film before he passed in 2002) and directed by Olive Lamasan. And we have to take our hat off to Ted Boborol and his screenwriters for being able to make a successful and relevant connection with that romcom.