Summer MMFF review: KaladKaren deserved to win for 'Here Comes the Groom'

Fred Hawson

Posted at Apr 19 2023 05:20 PM

Summer MMFF review: KaladKaren deserved to win for 'Here Comes the Groom'

En route to San Rafael town where his beach wedding with his excited fiancee Yumi (Miles Ocampo) would be held, the groom Junior (Enchong Dee) rode together with his mother Salve (Gladys Reyes) and sister Blesilda (Maris Racal) in a car driven by his father Rodrigo (Keempee de Leon). They were a devout Roman Catholic family, very conservative in mindset. Blesilda, in particular, cited Bible verses and wanted to be nun. 

When passing by a mysterious area called Magnetic Hill, at the precise moment of a solar eclipse, their car collided with a van driven by a tipsy Mama Wendy (Iyah Mina). She was bringing her bevy of drag queens -- Winona (Nico Antonio), Wanda (Xilhouete), Wilhelmina (Kaladkaren) and Whitney (Awra Briguela) -- who were joining a beauty contest also in San Rafael, as organized by the barangay captain Joy Gising (Eugene Domingo).

When they wake up from the accident, the spirit of straight-laced Junior had swapped places with the spirit of scientifically-enhanced transwoman Wilhelmina, the spirit of old-fashioned bigot Rodrigo Sr. had swapped with the spirit of outspoken hothead Wanda, and that of hyper-religious Blesilda had swapped with young acrobatic dancer Whitney. With the wedding the next day already, this topsy-turvy situation had to be straightened out, and soon!

This was a sequel of writer-director Chris Martinez's 2010 box-office hit "Here Comes the Bride" with Angelica Pangalinan, Eugene Domingo, Tuesday Vargas, Jaime Fabregas and John Lapuz as the characters who swapped souls. The main story elements -- out-of-town wedding party, Magnetic Hill, solar eclipse, car crash, Kuya Kim -- all originated from the first film. This variety of characters in the first film gave Martinez the opportunity play around with gags about disparities between gender, sexual orientation, wealth, age, and health. 

In this new film, the swapping was mainly between two distinct groups only -- conservative Catholics and free-spirited drag queens. A main source of comedy was how the straight male characters will turn flamboyantly gay, a scenario that did not happen in the first movie. While Enchong's Junior avoiding the aggressive sexual advances of his bride Yumi in the bedroom has been commonly done before, his swimming pool scene with Tony Labrusca (as Junior's best man Hans) was a more unique situation with sensitively-written dialog. 

While Best Supporting Actor winner Keempee de Leon was very good, he had already done gay roles many times before, so his florid portrayal was nothing new anymore. Co-nominee Xilhouete, suppressing his drag queen tendencies as stuffy Rodrigo Sr., seemed to have nailed a more difficult role. 

Transwoman Kaladkaren (in the physically- and emotionally- exhausting role of Wilhelmina) winning over her cis-woman co-star Racal was a very progressive development in the LGBTQIA front, and a most deserving win. 

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