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Predictable plotting weighs down teen rom-com

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DANIEL Padilla and Kathryn Bernardo

As a starmaking vehicle, “Must Be … Love” succeeds in shining up the separate and joint careers of its young leads, Kathryn Bernardo and Daniel Padilla. Their new love team is now the hottest TV-film ticket in town, especially with the tweens and teens who dominate the ranks of local moviegoers.

On point of unity and quality, however, Dado Lomibao’s film falls short in a number of areas: First off, its tale about a young friendship that unexpectedly turns to love makes for predictable storytelling.

When the friendship itself is affected by Daniel’s falling for another girl (Liza Soberano), the cliché conflict weighs the movie down further.

And when Daniel belatedly realizes that he loves Kathryn, not Liza, he comes off like a clueless klutz, because viewers have read the obvious signs of his deep affection from the very start!

On the plus side, Kathryn’s “tomboy” characterization is initially bemusing, because she does it so well. She’s made up to look dark and scruffy, albeit in a stereotypical sort of way, and her eventual transformation into a loverly young woman is also effectively pulled off.

Eventually, however, the production’s generally predictable and “for the fans” bent limits her portrayal to such an extent that, at film’s end, it’s just as obvious as anybody else’s.

But, it’s still more eventful and interesting than Daniel’s own star turn, because he does little more than “summarize” the previously well-established reasons why he’s become such a teen fave—his “slightly bad-boy” projection that refers and defers to his Tito Robin’s own “signature” style, his being as sassy and cocky as all get-out, his “killer” looks and hairstyle, his attempts at singing—etc.!

As a result, his performance here offers little that’s new and exciting—so, while his popularity has increased, his ability as an actor remains unremarkable.

Among the movie’s other downers, John Lapus’ portrayal of Daniel’s “heartbroken” uncle-aunt is a major disappointment that lugubriously pulls the storytelling down when it should soar.

Also confounding is the plotting of the movie’s final section, which has the uncle-aunt getting over his years-long depression by unexpectedly tapping tomboy Kathryn to be his image model for a big hairstyling and make-up competition that will mark his professional comeback.

Most improbably, Liza is made to give way to Kathryn, as Lapus’ image model, to make possible (but not at all plausible), the film’s Happy Ending with Daniel and Kathryn!

This is what the fans want, of course, but its “forcing-through” execution is not what the good script doctor ordered!

All told, therefore, “Must Be… Love” is great for the stellar careers of its young leads, and also makes their love team the romantic tandem to beat this season, especially for young viewers.

But, if Daniel and Kathryn want to be recognized as good actors as well, they have to ask for better stories and characters to play.

Decades ago, the young likes of Nora Aunor and Tirso Cruz III also started out as “silly” teen actors—but they eventually worked hard, learned from the best mentors, and became the thespic icons they are now.

Would that Daniel and Kathryn will be similarly dissatisfied with simply pleasing their fans—and emulate Guy and Pip’s sterling example!


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