Movie review: Janno Gibbs gets second shot in 'Hello, Universe'


Posted at Jan 28 2023 11:20 AM | Updated as of Jan 28 2023 11:21 AM

Janno Gibbs stars in Xian Lim's 'Hello, Universe'
Janno Gibbs stars in Xian Lim's 'Hello, Universe'

Ariel Dasalan (Janno Gibbs) was an inspector in the Destino fertilizer company, while his wife Jennifer (Maui Taylor) worked as a receptionist at the Ohanawave beach resort. They live with his mother Osna (Ube Lola) and daughter Faith (Madelaine Red) in poor living conditions, but their family was happy nevertheless. With his best friend Rocky (Anjo Yllana), Ariel coached a local basketball team, which was not winning their games despite their best efforts. 

Ariel blamed all his misfortune to back when he was a teenager when he missed a crucial basket that could have won the championship game for his team. Up to this day, he believed that his whole life would have been a lot better had he made that basket and won the game. On his birthday, Ariel was very depressed because he thought his family had forgotten the occasion. Suddenly, a mysterious guy named Jessie (Benjie Paras) showed up. 

There had been several movies in the past about wish fulfillment and second chances, like "Big" (1988) and "It's a Wonderful Life" (1946). This new one written and directed by A-list actor Xian Lim is another one in that fantasy genre, with a slapstick comedy approach. Lim's second feature film that he had written and directed looked very different from his debut crime-drama film "Tabon" (2019) which was darker and more serious in theme. 

Lim's plot about Ariel being given a chance to live an alternate reality and deciding which one he wanted was a solid one. He was still in his original mindset in the second reality so it did get a bit tricky when it came to relationships. There, Ariel was already married to Lauren (Sunshine Guimary), however he still loved Jennifer who married someone else. But Lim did not shy away from Jennifer confronting Ariel about it which was a bold choice.

The very roughshod technical aspects were not really up to par to the glossy quality Viva is known for. The opening credits were very crude and garish. The lighting of several scenes was very erratic, especially in the final basketball game. Lim attempts some trick shots in the name of comedy, like the walking scene at the pier, but the editing was not smoothly done. 

Janno Gibb's style of slapstick was very much reminiscent of Dolphy's style, especially with his facial grimacing and line deliveries. Not sure if this style was intentionally copied, but Dolphy's name was mentioned in one scene when Anjo Yllana was copying fighting styles of action stars. Benjie Paras' character was not well-explained. It would have been better if his Jessie had a little back story for us to know what supernatural character he was.

Lim tried all types of comic gimmicks here, hit or miss. Lola Ube's comic timing may be off but she was delightful in that scene with Joe Vargas's Bobby. Mark "Big Mak" Andaya and Darwin "Hap Rice" Tolentino make a good comic tag-team. PBA superstars like Allan Caidic, Jerry Codinera and EJ Feihl made cameo appearances in one game. Lim himself even had an unexpected cameo scene falling in the water which was actually funny. 

If there was any doubt that his viewers did not get the moral lesson of the whole film, Lim appended a short expository epilogue scene before the closing credits. In this scene, Kat "One-Armed Mamba" Tan regaled us with her skills in shooting a basketball and her clean delivery of her inspirational message about being happy with what you have, and not moping about something that cannot be there. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."