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First Day High (Mario Cornejo, 2006) March 26, 2009

Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, Noypi.


Written by Jade Castro
Directed by Mario Cornejo
Cast: Jason Abalos, Geoff Eigenmann, Maja Salvador, Kim Chiu, Gerald Anderson

The first thing you have to leave is expectations. Then your money. Then your brain, but not everything. Leave a little for it may be useful. Now sit and make your laugh as natural as possible. Forget the idea of intelligent filmmaking. Come on, you did not buy that ticket expecting you would be wiser after two hours, did you? Wiser? Dumber, maybe. But laughing at this film, along with the gazillion fans of Kimerald (that’s a gemstone from Mars), will not make you any dumber than before you enter the cinema. Taking this seriously is still the dumbest thing to do. But tell me, what is there to write about?

Déjà vu is what I call it but Jade Castro might squirm with the idea. After seeing Jason Abalos, Nor Domingo, Jamie Wilson and Michael De Mesa in the first few minutes, I thought this is an Endo and Big Time reunion. But that’s Kamikazee singing in the background and not Itchyworms or Ang Bandang Shirley. First Day High was released after Big Time and before Endo, so there really is some sort of authorial grip from Castro and Mario Cornejo. Oh, authorial, such a heavy word, forget it. But yes, maybe, a déjà vu it is – – monotony, familiarity, sameness. How about that song and dance number in the beginning? Is it supposed to send us on our feet? It’s done finally. Let’s move on with the narrative then.

First Day High tells how five students on their first day of school got involved in the poisoning of basketball players in the university. It is the big game against the varsity’s rival team. A detective investigates, pulls the water boy, and shows him pictures of suspects. Turns out he will tell this film’s story and introduce us to Brainy Indy, MVP MJ 2, Sosy Pre, and Rebel Gael. He, in turn, is Nice Guy Nathan. Nice names. Somewhere in the middle everyone bursts out singing. Only then we give up the idea that this is a genre-bending musical. Their backgrounds told, problems and romances untied, we are all led to believe that everyone is part of the crime, love is not blameless, and community service is all it takes to forgive someone who poisoned an entire basketball team. Whew, finally, the credits. I smell deodorant all over the place. And yes, before I forget, the name of the school is FSDU – – not First Day High University, stupid – – Francesca de Huma University. Just so you know.

Rabbits are allowed inside the library. The anti-love potion is experimented on the poor animal. Scientific method? How about that line, basketball is the key to a brighter future? Pre’s character is the loveliest. Who would not know someone like her? And her blue friends and their clothes? What sorority are they talking about? Kat Alano should not throw those stupid lines. Denise Laurel and Carla Humphries are irritatingly consistent. Kim Chiu is supposed to be intelligent but she can’t even pronounce her lines right. Gerald Anderson is bano, bano, bano; he should not be given lines in the first place. Oh, I forget. It is intentional. Piling silliness on silliness. But is it even right to call it silly, or absurd?

For all we know this is a paean to our great old cinema. When I saw Johnny Delgado I thought it was ripping off dear Mike’s Kakabakaba ka ba? Michael De Mesa looks more stoked than he is in Alapaap. Bembol Roco driving a vintage car is like Julio Madiaga finally coming to terms with the richness of life. And does Cherry Pie Picache really need to emphasize her jaundice? Oh, and they are mixed well with young people. Jason Abalos, probably one of the few effortlessly marvelous actors we have, is a crackerjack nutcase. He holds this film together. It should be dedicated to him.

Castro and Cornejo look content with this work, as far as their interviews tell me. And they should. They are paid well, better, best, whatever, and the output is not that bad, just necessarily bad. The fascism hands are at work, doubtlessly, giving them pills to obey its will. Wait, fascism? Who says fascism?

Dismemberment, belongingness, walking clichés, middle class kids, ludicrous comic timing – – what’s new? Do you still remember your first day in college? Me I do. I won’t lie about it. I made stupid things too. But not something that led to poisoning a basketball team. That’s too written. Anyway I got lost. Who would believe that there’s a bowling center in the woods? At least First Day High is stupidly entertaining, unlike my experience. Aren’t films meant to entertain? Oh wait, the popcorn lady checks something under my seat. Now let me out before I forget part of my brain in the counter. For all I remember this is all about forgetting.



1. lightning catcher - March 28, 2009

It is interesting how one character got to be named ‘Gael.’ I haven’t heard of anyone who ever thought of christening their baby ‘Gael’ in these parts in the ’90s.

This reminds me of a character played by Heart Evangelista in an afternoon teen show in her former TV network. She played ‘Gwyneth.’

I like these actors as much as the next movie lover, but this is just too much of a stretch.

Just like you said- silliness piled on silliness.

2. Richard Bolisay - March 28, 2009

I know someone, his name is “Hitler”. Maybe these parents we have here are so inspired by movies they forget their children will have it for the rest of their lives.

3. dodo dayao - April 9, 2009

Saw this parts of this on TV. Weird. Specially Bembol Roco’s Columbo slash Inspector Gadget trenchcoat.

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