“Hayop Ka! The Nimfa Dimaano Story” is significant because it is the first animated Netflix film from the Philippines. Filmmaker Avid Liongoren, noted for his previous animated work "Saving Sally" (2016) took 3+ years to complete his new project, with the homestretch done during this pandemic quarantine.
The inspiration for the film were love advice programs commonly heard at night on FM radio. After hearing a particular caller get reprimanded by the DJ for her experience, Liongoren was able to spin his own story into this film.
Pretty pussycat Nimfa Dimaano (Angelica Panganiban) was a contractual salesgirl in a mall in Manila, trying her darnedest to sell her knockoff Sabella colognes in her efforts to support her mother (Via Antonio) and sister Linda (Yeng Constantino) in the province. She was living-in with her musclebound mongrel bulldog boyfriend Roger (Robin Padilla) who worked as a janitor in the mall and enjoyed listening to the radio, especially the advice program of brutally honest DJ Papa Jorge (Piolo Pascual).
One day, Nimfa assisted pedigreed husky billionaire businessman Inigo Villanueva (Sam Milby) when he needed to buy a gift for his mother (Claudia Enriquez) who longed for a grandchild. That chance encounter led to Nimfa accepting future invitations from Inigo to go out with him. She met his industrious frog valet Jerry (Empoy Marquez) and the trusty pelican caretaker of his Batangas resthouse, Mang Ding (Juliene Mendoza). She was also introduced to Marie (Madeleine Humphries), the socialite poodle who just caused his nth breakup.
The whole script by Manny Angeles and Paulle Olivenza was a veritable compilation of familiar Filipino telenovela tropes. The title, an oft-heard line in these melodramas, says it all. However, since this is rendered in animation for streaming online with animals as characters, the filmmakers found it possible to push the envelope in terms of the vulgarity of colloquial lingo used. The dialogue (as well as the artwork) was fearlessly peppered with frank sexual jargon, either directly in-your face or as double entendre innuendos. For the millennial audience it targets, the humor should be sidesplitting hilarious and perhaps even be lifestyle-affirming.
The raunchy language will definitely shock and make older viewers uneasy from the opening scene. For them, the morality of Liongoren's story may come across as too loose and permissive for comfort. Partners were just hooking up in shallow relationships left and right, with marriage never being in the equation. Children were being born out of wedlock and it was all okay. Hard to accept as these situations may be for the elders, this is indeed the moral state of the modern society we live in nowadays. As far as appreciating the comedy out of these situations, I believe this is a matter of personal taste.
The voice acting of the A-list cast of this project was the most entertaining aspect. The roles given each of the main cast were all very apt. Imagining Angelica Panganiban or Sam Milby delivering their naughty lines was funnier than the actual scene itself. The original score by Len Calvo created the light comical mood for the story to unfold.
As local animation is still in its infancy, the hard work of art director and animation supervisor Jether Amar and his team of designers and animators to create their colorful original concept of Manila inhabited with anthropomorphic animal residents, was very commendable.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."