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With: Cherry Pie Picache, Dina Bonnevie, Randy Becker, Paolo Montalban, Ricky Davao, Christopher De Leon, Keesha Sharp, Martha Millan
Written by: Vincent R. Nebrida
Directed by: Laurice Guillen
MPAA Rating: R for sexuality and language
Language: English, Tagalog with English subtitles
Running Time: 104
Date: 09/29/2001

American Adobo (2001)

1 Star (out of 4)

Food Poisoning

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

"Don't turn this into one of those bad Filipino melodrama movies you and Mom rent," the teenage girl shrieks at her father in the new film American Adobo. Too late. I'm not sure which is worse: the poor acting by the ensemble cast, the flat dialogue by Vincent R. Nebrida or the gutless direction by Laurice Guillen. This movie begins to stink on hot ice even before the first five minutes are up. A smiling woman cooks and gazes out the window while her disembodied voice narrates a banality-ridden letter on the soundtrack -- all to the tune of some godawful, tinkly candle-shop music that continues throughout the movie.

American Adobo follows six Filipino best friends as they look for love in New York City. In real life, I can't see any of these simpletons hanging out with one another, as their easily-defined one-dimensional personalities all seem to clash. This is like the Filipino St. Elmo's Fire, except that it makes that 1985 stinker seem like a masterpiece. One character is gay and can't tell his mother. Another is slightly overweight, is a great cook and can't find a boyfriend. A third is a good-looking, shallow womanizer (Paolo Montalban) who always has some supermodel under his arm and is looking for a good roll in the hay. Yet another (Randy Becker) constantly cheats on his girlfriend. And don't be surprised when the gay character tearfully reveals that he's been in love with one of the straight characters their whole lives. Bored yet? It would be different if any of these characters came to life or moved past the soap opera stereotypes. But they just go through the motions, playing out these stories exactly the way you'd expect -- but with a leaden dreariness. It's like listening to someone trying to play "Heart and Soul" on an anvil. For example, our overweight cook (Cherry Pie Picache) accidentally sets her apartment on fire and falls in love with a burly fireman who comes to save the day. And the movie actually uses this old ploy: The gay man (Ricky Davao) accidentally mixes up letters to his lover and to his mother and must rush to Manila to intercept the envelope containing sexy pictures of him and his lover.

The title comes from a traditional Filipino dish that the friends eat whenever they get together for parties or holidays. This could have been a good food movie like Big Night, but aside from a meaningless montage under the opening titles, the movie doesn't bother to use the food for anything except a failed metaphor for the mixed-up group of friends. What bothers me far more than wasting my two hours on this drivel is the fact that this will most likely be one of the only Filipino movies released this year. Where's the Filipino Memento or Ghost World? Why do distributors insult Filipino moviegoers by giving them leftovers and unwanted discards? American Adobo is nothing but the chicken feet in the movie kitchen.

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