SARAH GERONIMO Does It Again with Prime Acting and Singing Performance in VIVA’s “MISS GRANNY”

It is one of those mysterious supernaturally-rooted plots that require two stars, one older and the other younger, sharing a single role: an older person via magical means being rejuvenated into the prime of his youth, and all the potential things he can do with his “new” life. Matthew Perry and Zac Efron did that in 2009 with “17 Again”. In 2014 Korean studio CJ Entertainment released their take on the concept with a female main character: “Susanghan Geunyeo”, literally “Suspicious Girl” but given the alternate English title “Miss Granny”. It was a great regional hit that the Philippines decided to try their hand on producing our very own remake.

Those who were lucky enough to see the original Korean version would notice that its storyline was for the most part transplanted effectively into a Filipino setting. “Miss Granny” starts with Fely, a 70-something grandma who feels she has nothing left to do in life after raising her son as a widowed mother, into a successful professional with his own family whom she lives with.

Actress Nova Villa, whom I remember best in the comedy genre, shows her drama chops by portraying a listless senior citizen who vents her personal frustrations by snarking at everybody around her: her fellow employee at a cafeteria for a senior citizens’ home who has nursed a crush on her for so long; an affluent granny in the home who gets on her nerves, her daughter-in-law who is on the verge of a breakdown; everyone.

Fely stumbles onto a second chance to live life freely in the form of a mysterious photo studio that catches her eye for displaying a portrait of her fave international actress Audrey Hepburn. The equally enigmatic photographer accepts her request for a photo, and the next time Fely looks into a reflective surface she is shocked to discover that she is young again: the spitting image of Sarah Geronimo, even.

And now we get to the primary star of “Miss Granny”. Sarah G is wonderfully awesome taking the role of a rejuvenated Fely as portrayed by Nova Villa. Having seen Nova in sitcoms while growing up in the nineties, I would consider myself quite familiar with her acting quirks and body language, and Sarah takes on all of them with a natural ease; you would believe she is the elder character made young. So we have Fely deciding to take advantage of her newfound freedom, assuming the identity of “Odrey” (after Hepburn) and getting the star’s famous “Roman Holiday” haircut.

But there is no getting away from interacting with the people around her of course. Fely-as-Odrey becomes a tenant on the apartment run by her old cafeteria workmate Bert (Boboy Garovillo), who learns her secret and finally confesses his devotion (which naturally looks weird to observers due to the physical age difference). When Odrey decides to sing at the cafeteria on a whim, she also catches the simultaneous attention of her grandson, aspiring band artist Jeboy (James Reid) and TV music producer Lorenz (Xian Lim).

Reid is full-throttle charming young heartthrob as the semi-slacker teen who is sweet on his grandma Fely, but is attracted talent-wise to the mysterious Odrey. He talks her into being the vocalist for his band, and in turn she steers him away from his metal fare towards more “wholesome” songs. This is a film starring Sarah G after all, so we get plenty of music numbers so she can perform. Again she proves herself to be the Sharon Cuneta of this generation, with equal and complementary mastery of singing and acting. Being able to make oldie songs sound like contemporary listening music is a gift. The “Miss Granny” Official Soundtrack boats five songs, four by Sarah and one by “Voice Kids” alumna Ataska Mercado, who is also in the film as Jeboy’s apathetic younger sister.

Of course, it would make for a boring story if there are no obstacles to Odrey’s fun. She herself is feeling conflicted over how her son and his wife (Nonie Buencamino and Lotlot De Leon) seem to be overly concern for her disappearance as Fely, when before she was all but told to move out due to health concerns with the stressed mother’s chafing under her way of doing things. Odrey also tries to handle how much her grandson Jeboy and their band’s new producer Lorenz are into her, before it escalates into an unwanted triangle. And then there is the sudden discovery that her newfound youth can be undone if she bleeds or loses blood. When an accident visits the family, Odrey/Fely would have to make an important choice.

A Korean watching “Miss Granny”, directed by Joyce Bernal for Viva Films, might judge it to be a faithful adaptation of their original movie. That is good, but what is even better is how much our Filipino version stands on its own, to the point that newcomers would be surprised to learn that it is a remake of a foreign film. That, in my view, is a major positive characteristic of a good adaptation, and with the highly-practiced hand of Miss Bernal on all things, it came out beautifully with just the right amounts of humor, drama and beautiful music. Sarah Geronimo fans will see it as a matter of course, but Filipino moviegoers looking for a great film will be very pleased with this. Rating 5/5

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