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SXSW 2021: The Fabulous Filipino Brothers Review

Four eccentric siblings live, laugh, and love in writer-director Dante Basco’s heartfelt dramedy, The Fabulous Filipino Brothers. This silly, romantic, and gleefully raunchy movie tells a feel-good story and serves as an unabashed celebration of Filipino-American culture.

Dante stars in the picture along with his real-life brothers Derek, Dionysio, and Darion Basco. The film begins with the men all together at a large wedding reception. It then breaks off into four separate episodes, spotlighting each of the brothers.

Tonally, the film is all over the map—but that’s not a terrible thing in this case. The story runs the gamut from an underground cockfighting ring to a couple of high school sweethearts spending a night together in the Philippines after losing touch decades ago. The plot gets as wild and absurd as a Hangover movie and as tender and introspective as the Before Sunrise films.

The Fabulous Filipino Brothers works best when it keeps things light-hearted and focuses on Basco family dynamics. When the plot slows down and gets introspective, it leans into clichés. While the story’s execution feels clunky at times, the movie’s themes resonated with me long after the final credits.

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The film examines how easily we take our loved ones for granted. It’s also about the sneaky ways we sabotage our own happiness. My favourite takeaway from the story is how love touches us in ways we’re not always aware of.

The Fabulous Filipino Brothers casually mines humour from broad ethnic stereotypes too. Early on, one character proudly declares his “jungle Asian” roots. I can already see these jokes offending loads of folks. I can also envision people seeing themselves and people they know in these characters and then bursting into fits of laughter.

I’ve had these same conflicting feelings watching low-brow black comedies. Seeing black characters defined by the same old problematic tropes pisses me off. But sometimes these jokes crack me up because the social commentaries feel so spot-on that it’s like they’re pulling stories right out of my life.

The difference between cancel-worthy and cringe-worthy racial humour boils down to context. Do the jokes come from a place of consideration and understanding? Or are the writers reducing racial groups down to plot-serving caricatures? Do the jokes comment on problematic generalizations or reinforce them?

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Although The Fabulous Filipino Brothers doesn’t have the sharpest joke-writing or tightest script, the movie radiates love and affection from beginning to end, which helps gloss over some of the rough patches. There’s never any doubt that this story and its characters come from a place of love and appreciation.

SXSW runs from March 16–20, 2021. For more SXSW coverage, click here.

4 1 vote
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