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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.

Jan 3, 2020


IT’S SAID that “Miracle at Cell No. 7” has overtaken the box office earnings of “The Mall The Merrier”. We’re so happy for Aga Muhlach as his past two films, “First Love” with Bea Alonzo and “Nuuk” with Alice Dixson, both didn’t do as well as expected at the tills.

With the huge success of “Miracle” at the box office, we can now expect more local remakes of hit Korean films in the near future. After all, Sarah Geronimo’s remake of Korea’s “Miss Granny” was also a box office hit.

Does the fact that Vice Ganda’s “The Mall” mean the public is starting to lose their fondness with him? Could be, since he’s been lording it over the filmfest for more than five years now. But “The Mall” with its more than P200 million box office take is no doubt still a certified blockbuster, although it’s small compared to his previous MMFF entries that rake in as much as P500 million at the tills.

Someone quips that maybe, people don’t really approve of him flaunting his homosexual love affair with Ion Perez, who is in the movie and they even have a brief romantic moment. After all, the majority of the Filipino audience still has a conservative taste.

But if Vice would come up with a much better conceived and executed entry in the 2020 filmfest, maybe he’d be able to recover his being numero uno.

We’re not surprised that viewers are getting tired or “nauumay na” with his kind of comedy as he just keeps on repeating himself in movie after movie with the “puede na yan” attitude of someone so self-confident that moviegoers will buy anything he offers, even if they’re mere rehash of comic techniques that he has used before in his past flicks.

The story of his movies might be slightly different, but the same old way of making people laugh through familiar puns and jokes is really getting to be tiresome. Been there, done that.

Their sheer silliness and inanity no longer click with the viewers, like his scene with Anne Curtis where they whip posters of past local movies to reply to each other.

As usual, there are several guest performances from Charo Santos and Regine Velasquez as themselves, Yassi Pressman as Maria Clara and Maja Salvador as Sisa, to Enrique Gil as Robocop, Ruffa Gutierrez and Annabelle Rama also playing themselves, but their cameo appearances were not really mined for maximum comic effect.

Some of the gags seem to be private jokes that only Vice and the people around him seem to be aware of and kiddie viewers don’t comprehend them at all, like that joke on Knorr seasoning.

The story about Vice and Anne as warring sisters isn’t really that involving and, as usual, they have to mix in some fantasy element with a book of magic called Siquijoraciones that pits them against the evil Dimples Romana and makes toys and mannequins in their mall come to life. After a while, all the silliness become so tiresome and boring.

As for “Miracle”, we’re not surprised that it didn’t win any award as it’s apparently made to cater mainly to the peanut gallery, even the acting of all its performers. No button is left unpressed to make sure that it’s pandering to the audience and they do succeed mightily in this regard as it’s a real crowd pleaser.

It’s made to delight those who have seen the original and it’s engineered to be a truly manipulative tearjerker that will melt the hearts of viewers with its mawkish story of a father who’s been accused of a crime he didn’t commit and the daughter who remains loyal to him and grows up deadset on proving his innocence.

Local viewers who just love watching this kind of sudsy story with very obvious plot contrivances lap it all up with glee and Viva is now laughing all the way to the bank and giddy listening to the sound of their cash registers ringing so merrily this holiday season.

So we’re sure they don’t really mind if they didn’t win awards. After all, ask any producer or director or actor which they would prefer: awards or commercial success at the box office, and we’re sure they’ll quickly choose the latter, sa inyo na ang mga trophy!

This simply underlines the fact that moviemaking is truly a business first before it’s an art. Serious film aficionados and moralists can clamor for well made artistic films that impart valuable insights about the human condition, but sadly, most viewers just want to be distracted from the harsh realities of life and prefer escapist entertainment.

They don’t watch “malalim” films to instruct or enlighten them, they go to the moviehouse simply because they want to be amused and entertained with “kababawan” materials that won’t make them think anymore or agitate and conscienticize them.