My notes on Mang Kepweng Returns:
1. My late grandmother was a big believer in quack medicine. Whenever I’d get sick as a kid, she would bring me to this seaside hut where an even older lady prayed over some wax paper (with Latin words written on them), licked them like stamps, and slapped them on my forehead to help exorcise the bad spirits causing my illness.
I never once believed in her sorcery (especially since my mom would ask me to take Aspilets after the session), but without her magical saliva, I would not have developed a stronger immune system.
2. I could barely remember the original Mang Kepweng movie, except that the late Chiquito (who was here in hologram form, but his mouth never moved while talking) played the title role with his trademark reverse bandana and Hitler mustache. I do remember its comics origins so I wasn’t surprised when this one started very much like a Marvel movie. Until it actually turned into a wannabe Marvel movie.
3. Much like any of its superhero origin stories, Kiefer (Vhong Navarro) found out the secrets to his past (he’s the bastard child of Mang Kepweng!), learned to harness his powers (polka dot bandana activate!), discovered how to be Doctor Strange (summoning those holograms and all!), and even staged a Civil War in the climactic battle sequence.
I even joked that I should stay until the end credits just in case there was a closing credits sequence. I wasn’t disappointed. Eat your heart out, Stan Lee!!
4. For a supposed update to a cult classic, most of the jokes here felt so dated. It reminded me so much of the humor in Home Along Da Riles (only that was hilarious and nobody could ever match the comic timing of the late Dolphy).
There were so many gags that were just not funny. One involved bungled haircuts (one man wanted his head shaved, the long-haired one wanted his dyed blonde, you know how this would end), another one had cha-cha music played during a funeral march, a latent gay character was always used as a punchline, and the worst had to be the renaissance of the yakapsule and kisspirin joke. Now watch me whip, now watch me anyenyeh!
5. Aerial shots galore. Congratulations on your new drone!
6. Is Jollicious Hotdog an actual product? That entire Zumba sequence where a large woman (named Petite, of course) fainted and was brought back to her senses by the smell of a jumbo Jollicious hotdog reeked of shameless product placement.
7. Two major characters kept questioning if the bandana had magical powers even if they grew a unibrow and a mustache after wearing it. Demanding much, mga bes?
8. Vhong used to be really funny, very much like a local Jim Carrey. In this movie, he was reduced to overacting like crazy while constantly cowering in fear (why was he working in a funeral parlor anyway if he was always close to having a stroke every time something eerie happened?).
9. The only joke that really landed was delivered by Bangky. When asked what he was smoking, he answered “Beep”. Vhong corrected him and said “Hindi po yan beep. Vape po yan” to which he replied “Beep ang plebor. Sa susunod chicken naman.” Mabuhay ang bangkay!
10. I would forever remember this movie as the one where a character actually said the line, “Ate kinagat ako ng tiyan mo!”. Horrors!!