Thursday, May 1, 2008

Review: Thewada Tha Ja Theng (Theng's Angel)

  • Directed by Wirote Thongsew
  • Story by and produced by Adirek "Uncle" Wataleela
  • Starring Pongsak Pongsuwan (Theng Therdterng), Kotee Aramboy, Bongkot Kongmalai
  • Released in Thailand cinemas on April 30, 2008
  • Rating: 3/5

Cherubic, child-like comic actor Kotee Aramboy might be clad in white and playing an angel, but the wishes he grants to the hapless Pongsak "Theng" Pongsuwan are postively Faustian. Kotee might as well be dressed in red, have horns and be carrying a pitchfork.

Maybe that will be the sequel.

In Thewada Tha Ja Theng (The Angel Must be Crazy, or Theng's Angel), Theng plays Gluay, a "shabby extra in a likay play". He is ridiculed and beaten by the rubber-faced leading actor of the folk-opera troupe and others in the crew, but the downtrodden guy does have at least one friend -- Oom (Namtam Butsarun), a young woman who brings him noodles.

But Theng only has eyes for Fah (Bongkot Kongmalai), a superstar actress. And when Theng sees Fah wreck her motorcycle and comes to her rescue -- only to find he'd stumbled onto a movie set -- his obsession kicks into overdrive.

Theng also has a fan -- an angel from the shrine of unwanted spirit houses -- who comes to see him perform every night, and when the desperate Theng prays to bring Fah into his life, the angel is there to answer that prayer by blowing on Theng's face (or spitting water at him).

The film is then a mercifully fast-paced succession of different situations, each designed to make use of Theng's comic versatility and keep attention deficit disorder-suffering audiences happy. From a robber in a convenience store, to a ghost-busting policeman/monk (don't ask), to a superstar actor, a hospitalized old man, a wealthy tycoon and even his own murderous doppleganger, Theng plays it up for laughs, with the members of the likay troupe (including veteran actress Viyada Umarin) in roles in the various scenarios.

All were designed by the angel to have Theng win Fah's heart, but they all end in disaster.

The best sequence involves a pair of ghosts who have kidnapped Fah. It even manages to be a little scary. Producer Adirek "Uncle" Wataleela and his comedy co-hort Boonthin Thuaykaew again appear as a duo of bumbling policemen also caught up in the ghost plot. Set in apartment 906 (rather than 609), it's essentially a parody of Buppha Rahtree, which introduced the two cops that have since appeared in several other films. Buppha Rahtree director Yuthlert Sippapak himself makes a cameo.

For her part, busty bombshell actress Bongkot plays along good naturedly with whatever Theng and company have to dish out, but there are a couple of moments when she can't keep her 1,000-watt smile under control because she's laughing too hard. It's like watching the players on Saturday Night Live lose their composure during a sketch. The difference here is that the director could have called "cut" and ordered another take. Perhaps he did, but still couldn't find a usable take.

Also telling is deleted scenes and alternative takes -- many of which turned up in the trailer -- play over the end credits, and easily outshine much of the film. These feature Theng in various guises, including Elvis, which he played before in Yuthlert's Killer Tattoo, and as Rambo, in which he shoots his own cameraman.

Despite a preponderance of fart jokes, homoerotic humor and the stock gay drag queen, Theng's Angel has a wholesome message about keeping your head out of the clouds. Keep your expectations modest and you might be entertained by this as well.

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(Cross-published at The Nation Weblog)

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