by Philbert Ortiz Dy
Beauty and the Bestie tells the story of Erika (Vice Ganda), who isn’t making nearly enough money running a photography studio to support her family. The problem is exacerbated when her young nephew is diagnosed with a rare condition that may lead to blindness. And that’s when his former best friend Emman (Coco Martin) suddenly shows up. Emman works for the Elite Super Secret Task Force, a spy agency tasked with the security of an upcoming beauty pageant. Erika happens to look exactly like Ms. Uzeklovakia, who was abducted by terrorists.
Emman asks Erika to pretend to be Ms. Uzeklovakia while the agency searches for the real deal. Erika is still nursing some hurt from the way she and Emman ended things, but she ends up taking on the task in exchange for help in caring for her family. Aside from all this, Erika’s younger sister Abi (Nadine Lustre) and Emman’s half-brother Tristan (James Reid) meet and end up falling in love. Erika must deal with her feelings for her former best friend while fending off terrorists and dealing with her worry for Abi’s budding romance.
As usual with films of this ilk, a lot of the humor is based on putting people down for being ugly or short or fat or in some instances, foreign. But the film is paced quickly enough that it kind of turns out okay. It tends not to linger on its more uncomfortable bits, constantly moving on to the next gag. The end effect is just really silly, and that’s mostly all right. One could and probably should ask for more than this, but in this particular context the film is an exemplar of what this genre can accomplish.
It’s mainly the commitment to mania that makes the film agreeable. The movie isn’t just broad; it is downright crazed. It puts together gags and set pieces that are turned up to a level where the broadness becomes absurdity. It might, for example, put together a car chase where the main character is hanging off the hood. That’s pretty crazy on its own, but the characters deal with the danger by singing through it. And there it becomes inspired in its craziness, and distinctly Filipino in outlook. And surprisingly, the film’s car stunts are actually pretty credible. I don’t think we’ve seen stuntwork like this in decades.
For the most part, the film is actually good at undercutting the sentiment, turning emotional moments into pretty effective jokes. But there are still moments that don’t quite work out. And there’s more than one clunky looking VFX sequence. But when the movie is just being silly, it can be pretty infectious. It helps that the cast is so game, everyone unafraid to look goofy. Coco Martin and Vice Ganda work pretty well together. And it turns out that Nadine Lustre is pretty funny.
Beauty and the Bestie isn’t going to make fans out of anyone who doesn’t like Vice Ganda and her type of humor. But if one is open enough, the film offers a fetching absurdity, the kind of goofy silliness that one might have expected from the likes of Mel Brooks or even Monty Python. I realize that this might be hard to believe given the pedigree of the people involved, but this film is so committed to its craziness that it ends up mostly working. It just embraces the absurdity inherent in the comedy, rarely slowly down to shoehorn in some unearned sentiment. It just gets sillier and sillier, and that’s a good way to go.