tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘Mang Kepweng Returns’ Doesn’t Set a Very High Bar

Mang Kepweng Returns feels like it was just thrown together.

NBHD movie 1-2 ticketsMang Kepweng Returns casts Vhong Navarro as Kiefer, a son of Chiquito’s original Mang Kepweng. Kiefer’s mother Milagros (Jaclyn Jose) has kept the truth behind Kiefer’s parentage a secret in order to keep him safe from dark forces that seek to destroy anyone related to Mang Kepweng. But an attack in their home forces her to tell her son the truth. Kiefer claims the magical bandana from his half-brother Zacharias (James Blanco) and claims the mantle of Mang Kepweng. He happily begins a new life as a healer, but will later have to confront Ingkong Kapiz (Pen Medina) an evil albularyo that is trying to harm the people around him.screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-1-16-27-pmIt takes a while for this movie to really get started. The movie starts out pretty crowded, introducing the main character and his three best friends and his mother and his two adopted kids and a couple of characters from the Zumba class that he leads. And then there’s the half-brother he hasn’t met yet and the gang of characters that surround him. The movie gets pretty busy establishing all these different personalities through a series of pretty discordant scenes. While Zacharias is earnestly trying to save the woman he loves, Kiefer is making silly mistakes at the barbershop he works at.screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-1-13-34-pmWe are pretty deep into the movie by the time Kiefer gets his hands on the magical bandana. But even then, the story hardly moves forward. The initiating action that led Kiefer to seek out his half-brother in the first place is quickly placed on the back burner. It instead goes into a series of gag scenes of varying quality and relevance to the very slight plot. And then there’s the requisite romantic subplot, for which the film produces a female character (played by Kim Domingo) given nothing to do outside of the context of her interactions with the main character.

screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-1-16-41-pmThere are probably some okay gags in there, but they’re pretty hard to pick out. Everything feels a little too slowly paced to land effectively. This is a film that will linger on a punchline, explain it, and then repeat it for good measure. This is bad enough on the jokes that kind of work. The effect is even worse when the movie lingers on the type of humor that we ought to have really moved on from by now. Too often, the joke in this movie is that a person is fat or ugly or old or maybe gay. The movie can certainly do better than that.screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-1-16-09-pmThe production is pretty shaky. The handheld camerawork feels like an odd fit for the movie, the story not exactly requiring a sense of naturalism in its scenes. If anything, it feels like it gets in the way of the rhythm of the scenes. The acting is pretty broad, but there are some bright spots in there. Jaclyn Jose really sells every silly joke that she’s given. Her deadpan delivery stands in pretty stark contrast to almost everything else in the film, further highlighting the humor that she brings. Vhong Navarro mugs pretty hard in every scene, but there’s some charm left in that.screen-shot-2017-01-07-at-1-18-22-pmMang Kepweng Returns feels like it was just thrown together. To be fair to the film, it does capture a little slice of the spirit of the Filipino comedy films of the late 70s and early 80s. Those too were overstuffed affairs barely held together by a plot that always inexplicably led to an action confrontation. But that’s not really a great thing when all is said and done. It just feels like the film doesn’t set a very high bar for itself. Like so many other films of its ilk, it just doesn’t think that audiences are ready for anything more.

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Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Rogue.ph. Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
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