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Monday, September 27, 2021

Lumpia with a Vengeance - 2021 LAAPFF Movie Review



The Movie: Lumpia with a Vengeance

The Director: Patricio Ginelsa

The Cast: Mark Muñoz, April Absynth, Danny Trejo, Francis Custodio, Edward Baon, Katrina Dimaranan, Caelan Scrivener, Earl Baylon, James Lontayao, Darion Basco, Joy Bisco

The Story: The lumpia-armed hero reappears in Fogtown and teams up with high school student Rachel to prevent a mysterious crime syndicate from destroying their town, and her parents' dream wedding.


The Review:
I think what I'll say first is that this is a comic book super hero movie steeped in Filipino culture and features one of the most delicious most easily accessible Filipino foods ever invented. That deep fried, delicious cousin of the egg roll that gets your taste buds fired up every time you hear the name. Lumpia. If for some reason you are not familiar with lumpia, I'm going to need you to drop everything and head to the nearest restaurant, market, or food truck that specializes in foods from the Philippines and grab a couple dozen of them. You will thank me later.

Okay, back to the review. This movie is actually a sequel to Lumpia, a film also created by director Patricio Ginelsa and, while the two stories are connected, you don't have to have seen the first one (I hadn't) to understand the new one. There are a couple of timely flashbacks and a meta reference that fill in the gaps nicely so you are perfectly okay going straight into this movie. After putting out Lumpia in 2003, Ginelsa went on to direct a few music videos for the Black Eyed Peas including The Boogie That Be and Bebot and I did notice that a song or two of theirs is featured in this film's soundtrack.

From the music to the wardrobe design, the entire movie is steeped in Filipino culture and there are so many references, inside jokes, and cultural shout outs that make the story telling really fun and gives it a sense of authenticity even while it maintains a goofy, tongue in cheek vibe. It was also great to see Danny Trejo in the movie for so many different reasons, one of which was to have a little fun with the similarities between Mexico and the Philippines thanks to the colonial Spanish influence on each country. There is a running gag through the movie about lumpia and taquitos that highlights the similarities and also pokes at the confusion people might have who aren't as culturally aware as we they might be.

If I'm going to pick at something about this movie I would say that it is a little long and could have been much more satisfying with a little trimming here and there to get it down to maybe 90 minutes. In general, I feel like comedies work better in that range of time and especially ones like this that are lean in on being silly and goofy and a little bit meta. The jokes can wear thin after a while or get a bit redundant if not handled carefully. I don't think this is a huge issue as I still really enjoyed the story but I felt like that deserved a bit of attention.

Of course, being a super hero comic book movie, there is the inevitable setup for possible future installments which I am perfectly okay with and would love to see more from these characters, especially the fiery Rachel, played by April Absynth. The entire cast is so much fun and makes for a great ensemble that could each have their stories expanded on in some really fun ways. This movie is ultimately about family and doing the right thing in similar ways to other recent films from Asian American filmmakers like Mallorie Ortega (The Girl Who Left Home) and Bao Tran (The Paper Tigers). If this is the type of comedy content we will see from up and coming directors like Patricio Ginelsa then I'm here for all of it.


The Verdict:
Lumpia with a Vengeance is the deep fried cinematic equivalent of sitting down to a fun, family style meal. All the ingredients are there and, while some things might not go together, everything is delicious and you leave more than satisfied with the whole experience. My only issue is now I want lumpia!


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