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Worth the save: Saving Sally is anything but a typical love story

MANILA – We’ve all heard the story before. Boy meets girl. Boy falls for girl. Girl likes boy as a friend. Boy writes comic about how he feels for the girl. Wait, what? Yes, Saving Sally is not quite your typical love story on the big screen.

When high school student Marty (Enzo Marcos) gets bullied at school, it’s the surprisingly geeky Sally (Rhian Ramos) who stands up for him and helps Marty get his revenge. The two get closer over the years, and Marty inevitably falls hard for Sally despite the intricate rules she creates to get around her draconian foster parents. Even as wannabe comic writer/artist Marty is applying for college, he’s also trying to gather the strength to admit his feelings for wannabe inventor and designer Sally. Problems arise when Sally reveals that she now has a boyfriend in the macho Nick (TJ Trinidad), and that her parents have grounded her. Marty also has to submit a pitch for a comic he’s developing that isn’t the typical superhero fare.

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One of the first things you might notice about Saving Sally is its background. Everything is shot in greenscreen, giving director Avid Liongoren’s piece a very animated, unreal feel. When Marty says that he sees monsters everywhere, the filmmaker immediately goes around the problem of casting extras by replacing them with grotesque animated creatures instead. The merging of live action with animation has certainly come a long way since the days of Disney’s Mary Poppins, and the animators from Rocket Sheep Studios should be proud of how they’ve done their take on this genre in a more than credible manner.

Ramos easily falls into ingenue territory as every geek’s dream: beautiful, intelligent, quirky, can carry a nerdy conversation, and can build or fix things. Despite all these however, Liongoren makes sure to give her flaws, such as living in an abusive home and not seeing what is clearly on Marty’s mind. As the film’s protagonist, Marcos is likable enough as the stereotypical shy geeky guy with a big crush. He’s the person everyone has to sympathize with because, as he says himself, nobody notices that the geeky guy is actually the superhero in this story.

Casting Bodjie Pascua as Marty’s dad, naming the local park as “Sandara Park,” showing legit Filipino comics such as Gerry Alanguilan’s “Elmer” and Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo’s “Trese: Murder on Balete Drive” at the komiks shop, and even a peek into life at Komikon both grounds the film, as well as cements who its target audience is. Perhaps nobody steals the film more than komiks publisher Toto (Peejo Pilar) who, even with just one eye, delivers some of the wittiest lines of dialogue.

It’s been argued by some that shooting the film mostly in English might turn off the masses from watching it, but I think that is utter hogwash. If Filipinos can line up to watch the latest Star Wars epic, swallow two hours plus of Leonardo di Caprio battling a bear, or marvel at Tony Stark in his latest turn as Iron Man all in 100% English, then they should easily wade through Saving Sally.

It supposedly took over ten years for Liongoren to finally get Saving Sally made the way he wanted to, several roles had to be recast and entire scenes scrapped and re-shot, but the final product that is part of the 2016 Metro Manila Film Festival is still very entertaining. This is not brain surgery, yet it is still distinctly better than 90% of the drivel that is usually fed to the public in MMFFs past.

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