A scene from "Ang Turkey Man ay Pabo Rin"
Matthew Adams from Pennsylvania (Travis Kraft) and Conchita "Cookie" Evelyn Bigos (Tuesday Vargas) from the Imus, Cavite meet online on a singles website called Kanoluvspinay.com.
"Ang Turkey Man ay Pabo Rin" is all about that one week of adventures and misadventures of this newly married couple from November 18, Friday, to November 24, Thursday, which just so happened to be Thanksgiving Day.
Matthew works in a business outsourcing firm (a.k.a. call center) in the Philippines. This film tackles the observations of Matthew about his immersion into Filipino culture. He talks about odd Filipino words (like "ano" and about Filipinized English expressions like "open/close the lights"); strange Filipino food habits (like eating pancit canton on rice); his very superstitious parents-in-law (who rely on herbal concoctions and stingray's tail to cure a flu); and funny Filipino names, like that of Dong (JM De Guzman), Cookie's younger brother.
Kraft, whom I first heard about years back cooking adobong manok in his hilarious video on YouTube, still speaks Filipino in that very strong American accent of his. The years did not tone that accent down at all! He sometimes appears very self-conscious on screen, so his performance can appear wooden at times.
Cookie, of course, would try to defend Filipino culture as Matthew criticized them, in the inimitably Tuesday Vargas way. Before she married Matthew, she is a young widow with a young son named Jonjon. She constantly hangs around her two zany girlfriends Osang (Julia Clarete) and Girlie (Cai Cortez).
During this week approaching Thanksgiving, she is nervous about her visa interview, but she is at the same time in consternation about acquiring a turkey for Matthew's Thanksgiving dinner.
Vargas is really so over-the-top! Sometimes it works, but sometimes it doesn't. I wish that this would be a comedy where the Filipina did not have to resort to physical comedy to get the laughs. I actually liked Vargas better in her quiet scenes than these excessively flamboyant ones. She really worked so hard in this film and the effort shows.
Quite a wide array of topics are tackled in this film, all the peculiarities of Filipinos that American would find strange. They really tried to squeeze every little issue with varying success, in terms of laughs. Some are funny, some are not. I wish Cookie had a better job than deboning milkfish. Was that job supposed to be funny? I did not find the food fight scene too funny, nor specifically Filipino in character.
I wish their scene with the older Fil-Am couple had deeper insights as to the difficulties of this type of relationship than what was shown. Was it on purpose that the same Caucasian guy they meet in the mall food court the same guy as the third consul in Cookie's visa interview? Cortez is already so funny, but why did she have to have a lisp? Why did Cookie's parents have to be so bizarre in behavior?
This is a uneven but nevertheless funny film about Filipino culture. It is very entertaining as we really have a good time laughing at things we do that unnerve other cultures. It can be very informative and eye-opening at the same time. This concept could still be done as a more sophisticated comedy style some day, but this one does quite well with what it has. 5/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."