The Panti Sisters is this year’s runaway PPP hit, what with the highly engrossing trailer and the reunion of all three Die series stars in one movie. I was a witness to this on a weekend screening, where it almost filled out a large theater to the brim. Sadly, it doesn’t quite live up to the hype. It’s never a good sign if your film buddy sleeps through half the runtime!
Don’t get me wrong; The Panti Sisters is funny as heck. All three leads are quippy, sarcastic, and meta, which we Pinoys are all suckers for. We’ve come to accept and love queer comedies, thanks primarily to Vice Ganda and Paolo Ballesteros. There are gems in this genre like Born Beautiful and Super Parental Guardians that retain a meaningful or even subversive core despite the craziness.
And this is where it pales with its thin plot embellished with fluff. The primary ruse of the film had an opportunity to set up bold statements on queerness and family but felt largely undeveloped. It’s a big deal for these flamboyant gay men to give up their sexual identity for the sake of appeasing their chauvinistic father’s conditions. There’s definitely power play and sexual politics and potential resistance at work here that could have been emphasized. Instead, we are left with lip service in the guise of empowerment … and a dangerous statement that feeds into the current feminism vs. queer divide.
It feels disappointing then because of how good the performances are. Paolo Ballesteros has mastered the art of drag and is at his most fabulous here. Martin del Rosario as the K-pop-inspired sweet middle child is as cute as a button. Christian Bables as the fiercer sister has the most dramatic moments. The movie should have been a celebration of their coming together and they deserved meatier material.
The Panti Sisters in a way is a reboot of the Die series. But I can’t help but think that Die Beautiful and Born Beautiful are just superior films. Maybe this is just a warm-up and Jun Lana will up the ante in the hinted sequel.