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After experiencing heartache, Adrian a.k.a. Ada - a conservative homosexual, leaves the city with his cousin Aruba. Relocating to a quaint province to start a new life and a parlor business, she meets her assistant Didi, her new secret love Dodong and a multitude of wacky characters including Dodong's brother Poldo, the peculiar couple Aling Britney and Mang Justin and her arch-rival when it comes to Dodong's affections Krystal. When a mysterious stone engraved with the words "Zaturnnah" falls from the sky one night, Ada gulps it down and he is magically transformed into Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah, a super heroine with immense strength and extraordinary beauty. In the pursuit of liberty, truth, justice and loads of excellent hair coloring, she fearlessly defends her newfound home from a giant frog, zombies running amok and from the overbearing Amazonistas from Planet X led by man-hater Queen Femina.Written by
I don't know whether the local 2004 film "Volta" was inspired by "Zsazsa Zaturnnah," although it seems like it since both the main character's superhero alter-egos have hair that are flaming red with their outfits looking almost the same. And not that it matters but the first time I read Carlo Vergara's graphic novel was in July two years ago - a month after "Volta" screened in theaters. Anyway.
Before "Crying Ladies" director Mark Meily left the Regal-produced "Zsazsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh" midway production schedule, I had high hopes for this film. But when he left to be replaced by Joel Lamangan (more so the reason being "creative differences"), I wasn't really sure anymore. Not that Lamangan is a bad director; he's just a safe and bland one. But still, I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt since he proved in "Blue Moon," at least to me, that with the right story, he can make a good film.
Ever since it was first published, "Zsazsa Zaturnnah" gained a substantial following. Proof to that is that I never saw my copy of the graphic novel again: it was borrowed by a friend, then a friend of a friend, and so on. The musicale version also created a buzz in certain circuits. The story is about Ada (now totally out-of-the-closet Rustom Padilla), a small-time gay beautician who becomes the feminine superhero Zsazsa Zaturnnah (Zsazsa Padilla) after swallowing a mysterious pink rock that fell from the sky. In his, er, her parallel state, she can lift trees, cars; run at great speeds; and jump at great lengths. And just as any superhero stories, Zsazsa has her share of nemesis, including a giant frog (which looks cute in all its... uh, fakeness), zombies breaking out in a musical piece, and of course, the Pops Fernandez-led Amazonas - a quintet of man-hating alien female lifeforms out to rid the universe of anyone bearing two X chromosomes.
As I've said, it has been two years since I last read the graphic novel so all memories I have of the original source is at best murky. And I've never seen the play yet which leaves me to just the minimal amount of reference. That said, I felt "Zsazsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh" could have been way better.
Rustom is a natural for the lead, although he has to contend with co-star Zsazsa Padilla who gets the top billing as the eponymous character. He seems comfortable in the role, but the latter's relatively stronger appeal constantly yanks you out of the character that it's hard to buy the idea that Ada and Zsazsa are the same. (Isn't it interesting that the superhero character bears the same name as the woman who plays her, and then in turn, the woman who plays the superhero bears the same surname as the lead male character?) Mother Lily sure splurged on the special effects, which by local standards (read: Filipino) are more or less fine. ("It's in the rigging naman e...") But what works as a campy romp in paper barely makes it on screen, where it looks silly and at times uneven with songs inserted between longueurs of dialogs. If they planned to make it a musical, why not do away with CGI and use some old-fashioned movie-play set to the likes of "Chicago" or "Dreamgirls?" And since it's aware of its tongue-in-cheek nature, I don't think there's a problem with using a giant cardboard frog. Ah, but local audiences aren't ready for that, I see.
After a somehow promising opening sequence, the narrative takes too long to progress with a lot of subplots taking place. The characters of Pauleen Luna and Alwyn Uytingco as Ada's sister and her boyfriend, respectively, are too arbitrary and the film won't feel short-changed without them. To be fair, Lamangan sometimes captures the feel of the graphic novel and then some (there's a scene her that narrates the Amazona's back story and it looks like a world from the upcoming Zack Snyder film "300") but other times, the movie's transition between the song-and-dance number and fight moments are awkwardly done.
The requisite fight scenes are also disappointing, because first off, Lamangan isn't clearly at home with them. They end up unexciting and clumsily handled. And considering the film's outlook, they serve nothing more than a detour added to make Zsazsa who she really is first and foremost - a superhero.
It's apparent that Lamangan has all the best intentions for "Zsazsa Zaturnnah Ze Moveeh" but there are glaring faults that keep it from being a few notches higher worthy of unqualified recommendation. As such, there will be those who will enjoy the movie, but those with marginal interest won't be held spellbound. To each his own, so to speak.
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