In Focus: Fantastica

I’ve been a champion of Vice Ganda films and have recognized their importance in cinema history. The fact that a queer icon leads four of the five highest-grossing Filipino films of all time is not only remarkable but downright unprecedented. It’s not just the figures either – there are gems in his filmography that challenge the preconceived notions of gender and sexuality. Remember Super Parental Guardians (2016) and This Guy’s In Love With You Mare (2012)? Those days are long gone, and it pains me to say that Fantastica is arguably his worst.

Belat (Vice Ganda) and his family run a carnival that’s past its golden days. They get unlikely allies in newfound friends from a magical hidden kingdom.

I found the plot of Gandarrapido! The Revenger Squad last year to be paper-thin, but this one gives it a run for its money. Instead, to beef up it’s 2-hour running time, Fantastica relies a ton on breaking-the-fourth-wall jokes and unnecessary references that don’t tie with the main story. The best way to describe its humor and feel is to compare it with parody films like Epic Movie, Meet the Spartans, and Vampires Suck. How does KathNiel’s The Hows Of Us relate at all to the film’s central love triangle? It absolutely doesn’t but it’s there. Yes, a couple of scenes are somewhat funny, but it’s not enough to sustain the whole run.

What’s more unforgivable is that while so much effort was apparently put into all these shenanigans, the characters were largely forgotten and turned out to be walking contradictions. What’s the deal with Prince Pryce (Richard Gutierrez) losing his feelings for Belat in the very end? With Dong Nam (Dingdong Dantes) saying his carnival friends are his family without any precedence whatsoever? The same can be said about Fairy Godmother (Bela Padilla) and Fec (Jaclyn). They act one way in one scene and another way in the next. No consistency, no development, no growth. There were multiple opportunities to offer some depth, but these were largely abandoned for some quick laughs.

If you’re set to watch an extended Goin’ Bulilit or Banana Sundae episode, or are a huge fan of Vice Ganda, then this is for you. For the heck of it, try to not to think too much about the film and choose to enjoy 2 hours of meta and pop culture gags. But those on the fence or those who want to save their hard-earned money (regular tickets have now reached the 300-peso mark), feel free to skip this one and let underwhelming box office receipts be your ultimate protest. It’s like the filmmakers are saying, “It has Vice. That’ll be enough.” They’re not even trying anymore. And that’s just lazy.

Directed by: Barry Gonzales
Starring: Vice Ganda, Richard Gutierrez, Dingdong Dantes, Bela Padilla

Random notes (SPOILERS BELOW)

  • I think they’re intending keep Belat’s gender ambiguous, but for what reason exactly?
  • Daks, Jun Jun, Pepe, and Pek. Very subtle. So subtle the audience in the theater didn’t even react.
  • That bit with Fairy Godmother’s voice being Gus Abelgas’ was funny at first but fell flat really fast. So did the overly long skit featuring Atty. Jose Sison.
  • If anyone’s watching for the love teams, don’t bother. They have at least two “kilig” moments each, tops.
  • It’s 10,000 “claughters” that will open the portal — imagine how many times in world history it would have opened. You don’t need Perya Wurtzbach for that!
  • Lassy Marquez has always been the victim of physical and verbal abuse in Vice’s films – like Babalu and Panchito were to Dolphy? But slapstick has become a very archaic brand of comedy. I hope he gets a different role in the future.

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