The best thing that can be said of "Iskul Bukol... 20 Years After" is that it's not the worst entry to the Vic Sotto-starrers to grace the recent Metro Manila Film Festivals, although considering the quality especially of last year's "Enteng Kabisote 4," it comes strictly as a faint praise. Tony Y. Reyes' schizophrenic and culturally ignorant film tries to be a lot of different things at once - a throwback to 80s slapstick, a travelogue to Cambodia, an Indy-like adventure story - and greatly fails in all.
Cuing from the nostalgia trip of "Enteng Kabisote 4," the trio of Vic, Tito Sotto, and Joey de Leon reprise their roles as Vic Ungasis, Tito Escalera and Joey Escalera, respectively, from the 80s sitcom where Vic is now an archaeologist (surprise!) and has just uncovered a precious artifact and as a result has become the it-man of the academic circle. He travels to Cambodia for a conference where he finds a Filipino boy (Buboy Villar) who may hold the key to the peseta, a legendary artifact that grants immortality to those who possess it. But a Japanese boss (Jacky Woo), caught in an 80s time warp of Yakuza stereotypes, wants the peseta for himself and will do anything within the ability of his incompetent henchmen to get it.
No one goes to a film by the Reyes-Sotto team and expects to come out refurbished with authentic historical lessons, but Bibeth Orteza's script is so keen in giving the story some sort of a globetrotting Indiana Jones/Lara Croft bent parts of the film were actually filmed in Cambodia; anyone who's a sucker for world travel will appreciate seeing the Angkor Wat (which the subtitles misspelled as "Anchor Wat") at the least. Ultimately, however, it's a part that embarrassingly sticks out like a sore thumb in a film that's trying to imbue history with as much knowledge as a tourist brochure, and a mere continuation of the "Enteng Kabisote" series, albeit under a different title: from Vic's ramblings on the "alibata" so cursorily written, to its dozen of characters who are merely on screen either because they were once a part of the sitcom, or because they're a part of the lead trio's home network. (How else would you explain Carleen Aguilar's character?)
Of course, it's always nice to see Tito, Vic and Joey having their reunion and I won't deny them their right of having their fun with other original cast members even if, as a matter of fact, I was only four when "Iskul Bukol" aired its last episode. But it seems much of the nostalgic fun happened behind the cameras as the reunion itself never lasts for more than 20 minutes, and it's merely an arbitrarily placed segment in an adventure film that has more cast members than there are actual laughs and excitement. 20 years from now, should they make something like "Bubble Gang... 20 Years After," it better be a real reunion movie and not just a gimmick. And it better be funny.
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