Copyright 2006 Steve Rhodes
RATING (0 TO ****): ***
Musicals are as popular as they are scarce. COLMA: THE MUSICAL taps into
that unmet need and quenches the viewer's thirst for a film that's filled
with one delightful musical moment after another. Good spirited and full of
high energy, the film stars a young, multi-ethnic cast who play kids just
out of high school in that other city by the bay. With over a million
inhabitants, Colma is perhaps the least well known of America's most
populous cities. Did I mention yet that only one tenth of one percent of
this town, just south of San Francisco, are among the living? The rest of
its million-plus citizens are housed in its large and expansive cemeteries.
Not many people would look at Colma and see its musical potential, but
director Richard Wong and writer H.P. Mendoza did, and the world is a
slightly happier place for it. Some movies start slow. COLMA: THE MUSICAL
is just the opposite. The movie is never better than in its long opening
musical number. If your heart isn't touched during this musical montage,
you might as well give up on your heart and the film as well.
Full of mirthful moments, the movie is a real crowd-pleaser that will have
you laughing with the rest of the audience but not having much of a clue as
to what was actually funny in the first place. Although the infectious
humor the musical produces is somewhat inexplicable, it's funny nonetheless.
The first half of the story follows Billy (Jake Moreno), Rodel (H.P.
Mendoza) and Maribel (L.A. Renigen), long-time friends, as they cope with
life after high school. College is not something these blue collar kids
seem particularly interested in. Billy, the one with a voice worthy of an
"American Idol" winner, is busy trying to get a part in a really cheesy,
community theater production called "Friend Joseph." Finally, in the end,
we witness this train-wreck of a play in action, as they sing dopey lines
such as, "I love you too. I hope neither of us dies." The director, who is
proud to be a geek like the others in the cast and crew, uses split screens
for many of the songs. I found this somewhat of a distraction, but the
quality of the songs and the singing more than made up for any flaws and
quirks in the film's construction.
So long as the movie sings, it soars. The script sans songs is a
disappointment, as it morphs from a typical teen comedy in the first half to
an equally unoriginal drama in the last half. But don't worry. By the time
you get to the parking lot, you'll have already forgotten everything but the
wonderful songs, which will be playing again and again in your head. And,
yes, of course, there is a CD for sale.
COLMA: THE MUSICAL runs too long at 1:59. It is not rated but would be
PG-13 for brief language and drug usage and would be acceptable for kids
around 12 and up.
The film does not yet have an opening date. With members of the cast and
crew present, it was shown recently at the Camera Cinema Club
(http://www.cameracinemas.com) of Campbell and San Jose.
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