by Jansen Musico
My Paranormal Romance (2011)
D: Victor Villanueva
S: Publio Briones III, Phoebe Kaye Fernandez, Van Roxas, Paul Jake Castillo, Arvee Yap, Gloria Sommer, Keith Religero, Frank Calmita
Victor Villanueva is mad, and his My Paranormal Romance(MPR henceforth) is even madder. Both exist in a twisted version of reality, a third-world, urban “Wonderland” that isn’t bound by the laws of sense and science. It is a place populated by misfit spirits, emotional engkantos, and of course, a white rabbit that gets a split-second cameo. In place of Alice is Merry (Fernandez), a neurotic, books-over-boys girl obsessed with getting admitted into the toughest university in the country, the fictional and aptly-named Super Hard University. Fate gets in the way of Merry’s scholastic dreams when a killer refrigerator ends the life of her eccentric landlady, Ms. Edwina (Briones), causing Merry to inherit her third eye. With ghosts now threatening her chances at SHU, she seeks the help of Lucas (Roxas), a dashing young man who pledges his supposed paranormal expertise. Laughter, mush, and dozens of ridiculously cute scenarios ensue.
MPR has the makings of a mass-produced teeny-bopper flick, but it somehow manages to deviate. After several years of bad mainstream teen romcoms often plagued with angst and mommy-daddy issues, Villanueva and writer Diem Judilla finally place the genre where it belongs—in the nuthouse. Though MPR’s backbone story is still comparable to an opened can of stale and cheesy boy-meets-girl conventions, everything else about it is fresh. The Cebuano humor, the kawaii overload, and the utterly pointless inserts that make you question the filmmaker’s sanity give the film a nagging kind of quirkiness. It is this quality that lets MPR stand out from its CinemaOne Originals competitors. While the other nine filmmakers take their projects through more artsy and political routes, Villanueva goes for a mash up of “krung-krung” and “kilig.” And you know what? It works.
Sure, not everyone will find MPR funny, but for those who will, the movie becomes a chill pill, a means to laugh away a day’s worth of stress. Villanueva and Judilla’s humor bridges Star Cinema presets and meta-comedy. The movie’s lines are dripping with self-referential puns and jabs that—unlike the ones in Ang Babae sa Septic Tank or Rakenrol—are more accessible than alienating. The filmmakers utilize every bit of the film for a chuckle: animated montages, over-the-top costumes, sentimental slideshows, even the very clever use of subtitles. Many of the scenes draw laughs from the obvious. A dying Miss Edwina, for example, mutters her last words, “I’m chilling,” after the rogue refrigerator crushes her. Publio Briones III, who takes on the roles of both Edwina and her evil twin Kuya Edgar, is exceptional and is not afraid to make a complete fool of himself. Everyone else in the cast also carries their own weight. The collective awkwardness and the juvenile quality of their acting contribute to the film’s charm. Though their deliveries of the punch lines are hit and miss, everything eventually connects in the end.