Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah: Why The Musical Is Tons Better

From the very first page of Carlo Vergara’s obra, I had thought that Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah smacked of Ruffa Mae Quinto and Dodong of Piolo Pascual. The comic book adventure has since then been turned into a play, with Eula Valdez donning Zaturnnah’s costume. She surprisingly pulled the role off with such expertise as she was able to get down, dirty and totally crass. Exactly like a funny gay parlorista who finds himself suddenly blessed with a woman’s body. It was something that most people were sure that only Ruffa Mae could naturally pull off and yet Ms. Valdez didn’t fail to impress.

That we were going to be disappointed with the movie version was already a foregone conclusion. My cousin Virna, my sister Leki and I just wanted to see it out of sheer morbid curiosity. All right, so Zsa Zsa Padilla playing Zsa Zsa Zaturnnah wasn’t really that bad. It’s just that she couldn’t exactly turn her socialite way of speaking off, despite exchanging her F’s for P’s. Zaturnnah’s gayness disappeared and most of her punch lines didn’t quite hit the mark. She just sounded like an extremely noisy woman. Everything was loud and mixed up. The most hilarious lines were delivered at the same time, so you couldn’t quite make out what everyone else is saying. Festival Mall’s sound system didn’t help either. I swear I could still hear the ringing in my ears when I left the theater.

Rustom Padilla as Ada, Zaturnnah’s alter ego, did good. In fact, if I had not read the graphic novel, I would say that he knew what he was doing. I have nothing against the fact that the writers seemed to have deviated from Carlo Vergara’s Ada and created a whole new different character that Rustom made completely his own. Thing is, the book’s Ada was conservative and quiet, a very far cry from the totally effeminate, cross-dressing Ada of the motion picture. I suppose this might cause problems for die-hard Carlo Vergara fans, especially the ones who had seen the play. To his credit, Padilla looked so beautiful and classy that I heard a few straight girls in the theater loudly wish they were gay.

Alfred Vargas as Dodong did not disappoint either. Though he did not look like Piolo Pascual, he pretty much embodied what Dodong is all about. Dark. Hot. Male. The kind that most yaoi fans would often dream about: One that does not care what gender his love interest is. Then again, if my love interest is as gorgeous as Rustom Padilla then I wouldn’t mind what his gender is.

Though Agot Isidro was magnificent as Queen Femina, Pops Fernandez’s version was well executed. She was lovely. She didn’t fail in projecting Queen Femina’s sexy amazonistic tendencies, which is perfectly suited for anyone playing the pivotal role of the main antagonist.

Most of the disappointment fell on Chokoleit. Didi had the most sidesplitting lines in the book and Chokoleit’s rendition of the silly sidekick failed to elicit as much as a snicker from the viewers. His delivery was weak and they mostly got drowned out by cast members who’d say their lines at the same time that he’d say his.

Most of my gripes, however, come from the production values. Technology-wise, it seems that the Philippines has come a long way in terms of 3D artistry and visual effects. Unfortunately, someone ought to tell the special effects people that they should also play with the lighting. The effects looked fake and reminiscent of the 80s. The 3D CG and the real-world components didn’t mesh well. They could’ve actually done well if they had gone totally baduy, as one would expect from the comic’s feel, and dumped the effects altogether. Or concentrated on making the punch lines stand out. Zaturnnah is a comedy, after all.

And the costumes! I was looking forward to Queen Femina’s battle suit so I could hear Zsa Zsa quip, “Ay ate, nagdamit ka pa.” But the queen’s suit had been so simple that that line had been taken out.

Furthermore, the camera shots and angles were horrible. As Virna would say, they should take a cue from Japanese sentai shows and stop taking distant shots, unless they’re filming stunt doubles. The actors’ bad forms were obvious, especially during action sequences. The only good fight scenes in this movie are the ones that were taken up close.

Again, I stress that I had already expected not to like the movie. It’s just sad that the industry can still come up with such mediocrity when you could see Multimedia Arts students produce excellent video projects. I suppose some filmmakers these days have been so happy toying with digital advancements that they fail to see that these should only enhance, not be the center of, a production such as this. Why else did the play become hugely popular despite its primitive setup?

Rating: 4/10

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