Enthusiasm keeps problematic “Ponching” afloat

Ang Bagong Pamilya ni Ponching
D: Inna Salazar Acuña and Dos Ocampo
S: Janus del Prado, Ketchup Eusebio, Lollie Mara, Joyce Burton Titular, Odette Khan, Ricardo Cepeda
RATING: Ratings copy 7

Hitches abound in Inna Acuña and Dos Ocampo‘s joint directorial debut. For the most part, Ang Bagong Pamilya ni Ponching plays like a 90s local sitcom. It’d feel no different filmed in a shoddy set, replete with laugh tracks. Save for a hilarious Snapchat reference, most of the gags feel generic and passé. But what this earnest morality tale lacks in freshness is counteracted by its overall enthusiasm.

Janus del Prado and Ketchup Eusebio play con artists Ponching and Elmerson. They sell pirated DVDs, but figured they can earn faster through text scams. Ponching suddenly hits the jackpot when a wealthy family takes him for a late relative’s bastard son. His religious conscience bugs him, but the lofty inheritance urges him to continue the charade. Tension mounts when Ponching develops an affinity towards his make-believe clan, and vice versa. In particular, he forges a tight bond with the obstinate Lola Ludy, played splendidly by Lollie Mara.

The support ensemble is a case of polar extremes. Jackie Lou Blanco and Joyce Burton-Titular put the “fun” in dysfunctional as uptight aunts. Ditto for Ricardo Cepeda as the departed fake dad. Odette Khan is likeable in an unusual non-menacing turn as Ponching’s scheming mother. Alas, the remainder ranges from wooden to paper-thin.

It helps that del Prado and Eusebio are real-life buddies. Their spontaneity keeps Ponching on autopilot until the last stretch. The creases eventually do overwhelm and the final monologue shoves the moral lesson down our throats. In the end, we feel for the film what we feel for the titular protagonist: it’s hard to dislike, even if we feel duped.

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