Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin

Benjamin Santos VIII (Vice Ganda) is back and this time saves the world from what would have been a zombie apocalypse brought about by a virus which starts to spread in France. Honored by none other than the president himself, Benjie’s success easily gets into his head, which leads to a demotion due to his hasty actions. He is now transferred to the unit of Wilson Chua (Richard Yap), a commanding general whose expertise as a soldier seems to be inversely related to his parenting skills. The Metro is being threatened by a terrorist group led by Janjaranjan (Tom Rodriguez) and only Bimbee (James Aquino-Yap), Wilson’s son with his terrorist ex, knows where the bombs are located but would not tell anyone. Benjie is then assigned to try and convince the kid to spill the beans, for the sake of peace and order in the country.

This is that one movie in Vice Ganda’s filmography that you need not watch. Petrang Kabayo served as his launching movie and tested the waters as far as his bankability as a movie star is concerned. The Unkabogable Praybeyt Benjamin was not that great either, but at least it had a socially relevant theme lurking underneath the corny surface, which was that of LGBT tolerance in Philippine society. This Guy’s In Love with U Mare offered a good deconstruction of the modern romantic relationship. Sisterakas was yet another test if he could share equal billing with another big star without either of them hogging the spotlight. Girl, Boy, Bakla, Tomboy was an attempt to expand his versatility as an actor. As for the Amazing Praybeyt Benjamin, it is just so hard to justify its existence, because there seems to be no other purpose for it aside from milking the franchise.

Simply put, you would not be deriving any satisfaction to justify the price of your admission ticket. For a theater that was almost full, laughter was rather scarce. And with a run time of almost two hours, you would be constantly asking yourself why the movie has not ended yet. However, the director seems to be well aware of this, as the main character himself even gets to crack a joke or two regarding the forgettable plot. Say what you want about Derramas, but you have to give it to him. He knows what the masses want, and he is willing to exploit that. Who really cares if his movies would be forgotten after half a decade or so, when they could all be laughing their way to the bank now, eh?

Everyone in this movie is overacting, with the exception of the two Yaps who do the exact opposite. It is perfectly understandable, though, as neither has been around long enough nor given challenging roles to expand their acting repertoire. They are just part of the cast because they are currently relevant. After all, our society has never really been a meritocracy. It is not about what you can or cannot do, but rather who you know, and you can apply this theory to almost every aspect of everyday life, may it be showbiz or politics.

Back to overacting, this is what Alex Gonzaga does every time she appears onscreen. Such brand of acting might have worked for Ai Ai de las Alas a decade before, but if the box office performance of her recent movies is to be used as an indicator, you can see that it is no longer working in her favor. Besides, only one actress can get away with it most of the time: Eugene Domingo, but even she no longer relies on that after she has found a better avenue in the indie scene where her real acting prowess is well appreciated. Having said so, Gonzaga need not ape either actress, because this style of acting just won't work for her.

What is surprising is how Rodriguez appears to be the only one with a plausible performance here. Despite the hysterics, you can clearly see him embracing the weirdness of his character, and there are several scenes where Janjaranjan actually manages to look genuinely sinister and psychotic. The thing is, with all the good roles he has been bagging lately, he does not really need this movie in his filmography.

Vice Ganda’s style does not get old because we all have this subconscious desire to be as upfront and tactless as he is. But this personality of his could only anchor a movie if the story has a semblance of substance, or at least grounded on a certain socially relevant theme, no matter how shallow. This movie has neither of that. The only prevalent theme here is how success could trigger one’s downfall. If that is the case, what purpose does this movie serve, then? A personal reflection of Vice Ganda’s current state of affairs?

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