Review: Joyce Bernal's KIMMY DORA AND THE TEMPLE OF KIYEME

Joyce Bernal's Kimmy Dora and the Temple of Kiyeme misses the entire point. It is just one humongous mistake that sadly betrays whatever hope the success of Kimmy Dora: Kambal sa Kiyeme (2009) created for the Philippine film industry. Perhaps the first Kimmy Dora offering was simply a tad overrated. It has everything going for it. It featured Eugene Domingo, then an underdog, an actress who has worked her way to the top as its lead. It was also the only film that had guts to take them on, armed only with faith on the untested charms of its lead and its guiltless humor In a market that only welcomed the repetitive romances and inane horrors of the country's mainstream studios.

It peddled nothing more but nonsense. However, it took that nonsense seriously. From the crafty screenplay that sought to stretch Domingo's capabilities as both an actress and a comedienne, the film evolved into something that was sincere in its objectives, which was to introduce something new, whether it be the unbounded faith on a talented artist or the emancipated manner of making a commercial film, to the very tired system. Surely, Kambal sa Kiyeme was not overrated. It deserved the rewards it reaped, the acclaim and the several millions of pesos it earned from weeks of filling up local theaters. 

Kambal sa Kiyeme's hyperbolic appreciation of Philippine life, bolstered by Domingo's equally hyperbolic performances as both Kimmy, the short-tempered and extravagant CEO of her family's conglomerate, and Dora, her immaculately sweet but mentally retarded twin sister, elevates it from being just a string of gags to something more relatable, something whose humor is more grounded on what was then current. Frustratingly, The Temple of Kiyeme replaces that pleasant hyperbole with unoriginal gimmickry. It abandoned the high-strung realism of the first film with inglorious fantasy, allowing needless ornaments and effects to overshadow Domingo's earnest efforts to elevate the entire thing.

From the high-stress offices and the posh suburbs of Manila, The Temple of Kiyeme relocates its comedy to the temples of Korea, continuing the story of the twins as they discover their roots and become aware of their duty to be wed to the hideous heir of their family's business partners in order to eradicate a curse that all of sudden plagued their semi-serene way of life. Horror creeps into the picture through frequent hauntings of a drum-beating ghost, filmed by Bernal like a third-rate J-horror upstart who got into the craze ten years too late. The story, both convoluted and confused plods along painfully, burdened by the futile attempts to both scare and amuse. The jokes, farted out half-heartedly, are surprisingly underwritten, overplayed, and mostly middling.

If The Temple of Kiyeme is what pure entertainment is, then I believe the film's makers have adopted a skewed sense of what pleasure is. The film is a near torturous event, weighed down further by how it feels like the moral and creative opposite of Kambal sa Kiyeme. Coming from the same makers with suspicious new economic and creative partners, one can't help but feel that this latest endeavor reeks of plain treachery.

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