REVIEW | Kung Fu Divas: A hilarious suckerpunch to the face of common sense

Kung Fu Divas pits veteran comedienne Ai-Ai de las Alas against celebrity superstar Marian Rivera. But it's the film's unique visual style and effective punchlines that ultimately raise Kung Fu Divas a grade above the usual mainstream releases. Find out why we rated it a 4 out of 5!

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Kung Fu Divas couldn't have been made by anyone other than a mad genius or a fortunate lunatic. But it seems that writer-director Onat Diaz is a bit of both.

Charlotte (Ai-Ai de las Alas) and Samantha (Marian Rivera) are bitter beauty pageant rivals, and neither of them is ready to concede the crown. But when they discover their destiny as great kung fu warriors, an evil force threatens to destroy them both.

The premise of this out-of-this-world action comedy doesn't make a lick of sense, but for all intents and purposes, it doesn't aim to.

Kung Fu Divas can be uneasily described as a mash-up of Okey Ka Fairy Ko! and Shaolin Warriors, blending Filipino fantasy with hyperreal Chinese martial arts. While the film has more of the former than the latter, it defies all manner of common sense by getting both to work.

It swings wildly from the incredibly calculated to the ridiculously random, and that strange marriage works particularly well through the odd-ball tandem of Ai-Ai de las Alas and Marian Rivera. While de las Alas' character Charlotte is a firm believer of destiny, Rivera's character Samantha is a devout follower of self-actualization. It's an interesting contrast of character that sets them apart as rivals, but also as eventual allies.

It's easy to see how Kung Fu Divas might've originated as a story about friendship and sisterhood, but the admittedly zany addition of Chinese martial arts ends up giving the film its own distinct voice.

However, it's Diaz's experience as a commercial director that ultimately gives Kung Fu Divas its unique sense of style. Slickly shot, humorously mounted, and aptly scored, the film is weaved together in a far more polished (and creative) fashion than other mainstream releases.

For a film that threatens to run away with its own ridiculous premise, Diaz's real triumph is making Kung Fu Divas more cohesive and entertaining than it should be. The film suffers from a fistful of lapses in logic, but none of it is too distracting to keep us from believing that beauty pageants and wu xia make perfect sense.

Diaz's humor in Kung Fu Divas is a refreshing blend of familiar and original. De las Alas' usual slapstick antics are exchanged for more verbal and visual puns, and the end result is something both cleverly gratifying and uniquely Filipino.

Kung Fu Divas takes its story as seriously as it does its medication--which is to say, not at all. Plot holes are whisked away with an unsatisfying and often unconvincing line of dialogue, and dramatic scenes drone on despite Diaz's desperate attempts to inject levity into the sequences.

But it's the film's long-winded flashbacks that eventually drag the movie down. While the flashbacks are oddly entertaining and critical to the story of Charlotte and Samantha, the film's constant need to rely on heavy-handed exposition derails Diaz's fast-paced intentions. Despite Diaz's efforts to keep Kung Fu Divas moving, the film's brisk pace is left stuttering from the amount of flashbacks and exposition.

Admittedly, Kung Fu Divas has very little kung fu in it. Much like the zombies in Jade Castro's Zombadings, the kung fu seems to serve as more of a marketing ploy than the actual crux of the film.

Still, Diaz manages to use the hyperrealistic world of kung fu and wu xia to get away with a film that is satisfyingly ridiculous and wholeheartedly entertaining.

Sometimes, a good punch to the face is all it takes to win over common sense.

THE VERDICT: Kung Fu Divas embraces its own ridiculous premise with a unique visual style that is both funny and incredibly satisfying.

Kung Fu Divas opened in Philippine cinemas on October 2, 2013. Rate and review this film here.

You can follow Zig Marasigan on Twitter via @zigmarasigan for more bite-sized thoughts on local and international cinema.

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Photos courtesy of Star Cinema