'Fantastica' review: Incoherent vice

JOLLY BUT JUVENILE. The usual Vice Ganda jokes and gags entertain at first, but lose their freshness towards the end. Screenshot from ABS-CBN Star Cinemau00e2u0080u0099s Youtube account

JOLLY BUT JUVENILE. The usual Vice Ganda jokes and gags entertain at first, but lose their freshness towards the end.

Screenshot from ABS-CBN Star Cinemau00e2u0080u0099s Youtube account

One goes into a Vice Ganda film knowing exactly what to expect – mean-spirited humor, slapstick, and lowbrow wit.

Visible gender and advocacies

There would be times when one of the wildly popular comedienne’s films would have a little bit of true discourse beneath all its vulgarity and nonsense. Most of her collaborations with director Wenn Deramas are laced with queer-positive overtones, even if there would be jokes, scenes, or plot points that propagate antiquated stereotypes. The point of the matter is that Vice Ganda’s slew of successes has made her and everything about her, including her gender and advocacies, visible like never before.

Barry Gonzalez’s Fantastica utilizes Vice Ganda when she’s already at the peak of her popularity, when she’s no longer an underdog, and when the overtones have been relayed too repeatedly that the profit motive’s lingering stench can no longer be perfumed by imagined discourses. 

Instead of making use of her following to impart something novel and progressive, the film settles for the same proliferation of Vice Ganda’s brand of comedy, which tends to be oblivious of good taste.

Instead of coming up with a lucid narrative where Vice Ganda finally gets to achieve what she promotes in the end, which is to love and be loved, no matter who you are, she still insists on being the butt of a staggered joke, the truly unfortunate damsel who gets to save the day but is jokingly rejected by the two men she selflessly helps. 

Fantastica only proves that Vice Ganda’s comedy is inconsistent with what she presumably stands for. Here, she is either an incoherent messenger of mixed slogans or just a shallow entertainer who is content with getting empty laughter. 

Meeting expectations

This of course doesn’t mean that Fantastica is an utter bore.

As previously mentioned, one goes into a movie starring Vice Ganda knowing exactly what to expect. Fantastica meets expectations. Vice Ganda remains to be a vibrant and enduring presence all throughout.

Whenever a scene doesn’t involve her such as when the film shifts its attention to the younger players like Maymay Entrata and Edward Barber to squeeze a disposable romance in between moments of relentless inanity, the film dismally soft-pedals, exposing the fact that the film is completely reliant on Vice Ganda to push everything forward. Everything else, from the plot to the extraneous characters, are just fillers.

Again, not all the fillers feel like pointless distractions like Entrata, Barber, and all the other youngsters who are clinging to Fantastica for pop culture visibility. 

Jaclyn Jose, who plays Vice Ganda’s mother, is a joy to watch. She is probably the only performer in the film who can upstage Vice Ganda with hardly any need for extreme self-deprecation. Dingdong Dantes and Richard Gutierrez, both playing Vice Ganda’s possible romantic partners, are amusing enough, given that their roles do not require anything else from them than to be part of the many gags the film has assembled.  

Jolly but juvenile

As with almost all gag shows, Fantastica’s jokes aren’t always on point.

The film works best in the beginning when the punchlines are still fresh and there is still some semblance of hope that there is more to it than just the string of quips and wisecracks. When all the imagination runs out, with Vice Ganda resorting to parodying Cathy Garcia-Molina’s The Hows of Us (2018) for easy chuckles, and it becomes apparent that the film is devoid of even the subtlest of substance, the film starts to run on fumes, turning into a jolly but really juvenile jumble. – Rappler.com

Francis Joseph Cruz litigates for a living and writes about cinema for fun. The first Filipino movie he saw in the theaters was Carlo J. Caparas' Tirad Pass. Since then, he's been on a mission to find better memories with Philippine cinema.