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Wednesday, December 20, 2017

MMFF 2017 Movie Review : Chris Martinez' "Meant To Beh"

For the first time in forever, here's a Vic Sotto movie that I actually like.

It's that time of the year again for the biggest film festival in the country, the Metro Manila Film Festival. This year, the organizers of the festival reintroduced the controversial "commercial appeal/viability" in it's criteria for the selection of entries which was criticized because it was alleged that the reintroduction of these old rules was made to prioritize box-office success over quality films and to accommodate the big mainstream studios that were mostly left out last year. And so obviously, the past MMFF's box-office royalties that did not make it to last year's festival are also back on the scene, including Vic Sotto. To be honest, I don't really watch a lot of his films. I don't find anything funny about his endless Enteng sequels. I don't really have anything bad against him. It's just that his brand of comedy is not my type. So I had low expectations when I went to see his movie, Meant To Beh during it's Premiere night last December 20, 2017 at SM Megamall. But to my surprise, it turns out that his latest film is his best movie to date.

Screenshots from the trailer

Meant To Beh, directed by Chris Martinez, is Vic Sotto's latest entry to the Metro Manila Film Festival. Distributed and produced by OctoArts Films, M-Zet Productions and APT Entertainment, the film stars Vic Sotto, Dawn Zulueta, JC Santos, Daniel Matsunaga, Sue Ramirez, Gabbi Garcia, Ruru Madrid, Andrea Torres and Baby Baste. Meant To Beh follows the lives of a married couple, Ron (Vic Sotto) and Andrea (Dawn Zulueta), who lives with their three children: Christian (JC Santos), Alex (Gabbi Garcia) and Rylie (Baeby Baste). Unbeknownst to their children, the couple's relationship has been on the rocks for a long time now, and they have been trying their best to keep their family together by staying as a couple. That is until they both decided to finally call it quits and get divorced. As Ron and Andrea try to move on with their separate lives (and separate love interests), their three children decided to take matters into their own hands to bring them back together again. Will they succeed in making their parents realize that the two of them were really meant to be?

The premise of the film isn't really something new anymore. I'm pretty sure there have been quite a few films that have already tackled a similar story. But to the film's credit, their approach to the story made it feel fresh and inspired. The good thing about this film is that it took it's time in introducing us to the Balatbat family. The film did not rushed the story to accommodate product placements and unnecessary cameos. Instead, it focused on giving audiences background to each of the characters, from Ron's view as a husband being the head of the household and being the main source of income of the family, Andrea trying to have a career despite being a mother of three, Christian who is head over heels with a girl (Sue Ramirez) in his campus but can't find the courage to tell his true feelings for her and Alex who is trying to deny the fact that she actually likes this guy (Ruru Madrid) but pretends not to. Unlike most comedy films we get to see during the festival before, this one stands out because it sticks to it's story and builds up to ensure that audiences will root for all of it's main characters. It actually took quite some time before the actual conflict of the films starts, which I felt was the part that got rushed.

Director Chris Martinez is one of the biggest reasons why this movie was a breathe of fresh air from Vic Sotto's past films. Known for his movies like Here Comes the Bride (2010), Temptation Island (2011) and The Gifted (2014), Chris Martinez' brand of comedy is far different from the slapstick comedy that people usually see in Vic Sotto's past films. I don't watch Vic Sotto's movies because I know how he does his films. Therefore, the change of director was a really good decision (Tony Y. Reyes who previously directed the past Enteng Kabisote films was the original director attached to the project, before being replaced by Martinez). Unlike his past films, this movie doesn't feel like another Vic Sotto movie. It removed everything that audiences hated in his past films, most especially those annoying product placements that haunted every scene of his Sotto's films. This movie actually felt like a serious movie, and not an extended commercial ad. Regarding the film's humor, Chris Martinez tried a lot of things to keep the audiences laughing from start until the end of the film. Some worked, some did not. But when the jokes work, they are really funny. Like laugh out loud funny that made everyone cheered inside the theater where we had the screening.

Aside from Chris Martinez' solid direction of the material, another strong aspect of the film is it's very talented cast. Ruru Madrid and Gabii Garcia had some nice moments together, though their story line weren't given enough scenes where they could shine. Daniel Matsunaga still needs to work on his Tagalog accent as it was a bit distracting but he was fine as Dawn Zulueta's lover. Andrea Torres was really fun to watch during those confrontation scenes with Dawn in the film. JC Santos and Sue Ramirez have some spark together, and even though their subplot was short, they made the best out it. Santos was just so adorable in this nerdy role (which reminds me of Fidel from 100 Tula Para Kay Stella). Vic Sotto is still the same Vic Sotto that we've seen in the past Enteng Kabisote films. His acting is still the same. But with his character here in this movie, he is far more relatable than his previous movie roles. I never thought that Dawn Zulueta could do a comedy like this. At first. I couldn't imagine the possibility of her doing comedy. But with Meant To Beh, she was able to transition from her usual drama to comedy and she did it with flying colors.  But the biggest stand-out of the film is none other than Baeby Baste who plays their youngest son. The whole audience in the screening I attended can't help but cheer whenever he cracks a joke. Also, he will definitely melt your heart whenever he tries some dramatic acting. He is oozing with charm and confidence on screen and he definitely stole the show.

To be honest, I still can't believe that the movie that I've watched was a Vic Sotto movie because it did not feel like it was. I guess he was true when he said that this is his first serious film because this was an improvement over his past movies. Though there were some short moments that felt lagging and could have been improved, the whole film itself is quite good. Meant To Beh is an entertaining, family-friendly comedy that is too good to miss.

Rating: ✰✰1/2  of 

"Meant To Beh" (2017) Directed by Chris Martinez, Distributed and produced by OctoArts Films, M-Zet Productions and APT Entertainment, the film stars Vic Sotto, Dawn Zulueta, JC Santos, Daniel Matsunaga, Sue Ramirez, Gabbi Garcia, Ruru Madrid, Andrea Torres and Baby Baste.


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