More of the usual

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VIC SOTTO teams up once again with some of his Eat Bulaga! co-hosts and director Michael Tuviera (who directed the 2018 Metro Manila Film Festival entry Jack, Em, Popoy: The Puliscredibles) for another action comedy — Mission Unstapabol: The Don Identity .

It is 1990. Brothers Don Robert Fortun (Vic Sotto) and Benjie Fortun (Jose Manalo) attend a presentation by Dr. Arthur (Tonton Guitierrez) of the “Pearl of the Orient,” believed to be a legendary pearl from the country’s pre-colonial period. Then Robert is suddenly framed by his brother of killing Dr. Arthur, and is sentenced to 20 years in prison. Dr. Arthur’s wife and daughter Claire witness his arrest.

After serving his sentence, Robert plots to take revenge on his traitorous brother who has in the intervening years risen through the ranks to be the CEO of a security company and “art patron.” When Benjie decides to donate the precious pearl to the Maharlika Museum, Don Robert seeks to clear his name. He embarks on an undercover mission and hires The Dons — Don Johnson (Jake Cuenca), Don Zulueta (Pokwang), and Don Kikong (Jelson Bay) — to help him. Later on, he seeks help from female hacker Donna Cruz (Maine Mendoza), who also happens to be Dr. Arthur’s daughter, now all grown up.

The action comedy covers a multitude of topics: theft, fake news, and cyber security; and character motivation: revenge, greed, and pride. Having seen Mr. Sotto’s movie in last year’s festival, I noted a similarity between them — both stories concern stopping and exposing the antagonist with protagonist going undercover, only this movie has less gun violence.

I think that young audiences may not be able to relate to the pop culture references used in this year’s outing which date back to the 1980s and ’90s such as the name Don Kikong, a play on the video game Donkey Kong, and actress and singer Donna Cruz and her song (and dance moves of) “Kapag Tumibok ang Puso” (1989).

As a reporter covering the arts beat, I quickly realized and was amused by the fact that the fictional Maharlika Museum — where most of the story’s action takes place — is made up of two separate locations. The outdoor scenes were shot at the Manila Central Post Office, while the indoor scenes where shot in a hallway at the San Agustin Museum.

The physical appearance of Ms. Mendoza’s character, the hacker Donna Cruz, reminded me of my favorite female book character, Lisbeth Salander (The Millennium Trilogy), with her smokey eyes, dark lipstick, all-black outfit, and motorcycle. Despite that, I still saw Ms. Mendoza as an actress playing a not-so convincingly challenging character.

If Messrs. Sotto and Tuviera work on another entry next year, I hope they explore other genres and a different plotline aside from undercover missions.

Overall, it’s a feel-good movie with nothing unexpected.

MTRCB Rating: PG