Arthur, Lando and Dmitri had been close friends since they were little boys forced to squeeze into a tricycle everyday on the way to school. In school, they all admired one girl, the pretty and multi-talented Elena. After graduation, Elena was brought to the States by her folks, while the three boys all ended up in dead-end jobs as toll-gate operators right in their hometown of Sanlaan. One day years later, Elena suddenly came back home to Sanlaan, and the three friends went back to their old foolish ways, vying for her attention and her affection.
Ketchup Eusebio was clearly the most comfortable comedy actor of the three. So it was interesting that in "'Tol," he gets to play Arthur, who was the straightest character of the three. He was the guy who wanted to become an architect, but was too lazy and uninspired to push through with his dream. He was still the one that seemingly had the voice of reason, the self-declared leader among these three amigos.
I had seen Joross Gamboa play comedy roles before, both of them as flamboyant gay guys in "Ang Dalawang Mrs. Reyes" and "Deadma Walking." His Dmitri here was the wild man of the gang, with his unkempt upswept hair and his untidy inconsistent beard (which became a running adlib joke among them). Dmitri was also able to make his gums bleed at will, making him look like a crazy Neanderthal. He was always shouting and outrageous, especially if he performed his lame magic tricks.
With his clean-cut mestizo looks and deep dimples, Arjo Atayde was the clear odd-man out in this ensemble. His Lando was the immature man-child still hanging on to the apron-strings of his over-doting, over-nosy mother Milagros (played by Ruby Ruiz). We are just too used to seeing Atayde in dead serious dramatic roles, so casting him in a role like this may need a learning curve. Unlike the other two guys, he was the one who felt like he was trying too hard to be funny, coming across as uncomfortable.
Playing the apple of all their eyes, Elena, was the always winsome Jessy Mendiola. She was clearly out of their league, a pure paragon, impossibly unattainable. All she needed to do was look cluelessly pretty and nothing much more, and these loser guys would already think she was reciprocating their feelings for her.
Jimmy Santos was just playing his old schtick as Police Chief Gabriel to whom they three guys were telling their tale of woe. Martin Escudero, Bob Jbeili and Victor Anastacio play their similarly foolish rival counterparts from the night shift.
This film by director Mike Livelo is a screwball physical comedy, so its appreciation depends on the taste of the viewer, not exactly my favorite style of comedy. Eusebio's comic timing was the most effortless and natural. The other two actors were too over-the-top, such that their acting efforts felt so strenuous and exhausting. To its credit, unlike recent indie comedies, this one did not have to use foul language to be funny and I liked that. 6/10
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."