Sunday, March 8, 2020

For Your Height Only (1981) and The Impossible Kid (1982)

The Philippines were a fun place for cinema back in the day! You'd get all sorts of movies in all sorts of genres, from action, to horror, comedy, and God knows what else! As with all countries, no matter how strange their mainstream can get, there's always weirder stuff to be found under the surface, and that's where the Weng Weng films lie. A diminutive 2'9 lead, he acted in many films, including the spy comedy For Your Height Only, and its sequel The Impossible Kid.

A ruthless crime syndicate has kidnapped a prominent scientist, and intends on using his research to create a superweapon that will help them take over the world.The Filipino government sends out their toughest operative, Agent 00, after these terrorists. A formidable opponent, and armed with a variety of gadgets, Agent 00 is going to make this group wish they'd never met him...

I was really looking forward to For Your Height Only and all it had to offer, but as I realised pretty early on, it was a rather disappointing affair! My big issue with it is that visually it feels like it's trying to be fun and over-the-top, with its diminutive secret agent/hero, spy capers, and cool action, but the story itself is not only totally serious, it's the most basic espionage story imaginable. There's nothing really that interesting at play here besides the lead.

Besides being basic, the story is also interminable boring, and this is all the fault of the writer. It seems like they wrote themselves into a corner when they had Weng Weng free himself. We were all set up for the climax (albeit way too early). He gets captured and taken to Mr. Giant's island headquarters, and gets loose to wage one last battle against the terrorists. Instead he frees himself before they can take him there, and the movie aimlessly [ambles] about as Weng Weng kills more and more goons, even the main onscreen baddie, which really leaves the film rudderless! With such a distinct personality and major adversary dead, and also the only one who knew the way to Mr. Giant's secret headquarters, the film is unable to proceed. It's like a video game level where you messed up and did the objectives in the wrong order. You can technically keep playing, but with no real point, or way of furthering your progress.

The last act sadly not any better. It felt like a culmination of everything bad that had come before, and as dozens of baddies were being mowed/gunned down by the heroes, I couldn't bring myself to care even a little. Then there's the oddly downbeat ending, which kills any hope of this being a fun popcorn movie.

Described as an invincible monster by his enemies, and 'very petite, like a potato' by women, Weng Weng is a great protagonist. Softly spoken, and unassuming, but he's one tough agent, and would no doubt give 007 a run for his money! He's also a friggin' death machine! After about the 50th person he kills, you begin to view him as less of a loveable scamp and more of a psychopath. His body count just keeps on growing and growing as the movie goes on/progresses.

Along his journey, Secret Agent 00 meets lots of pretty young women, all of whom are immediately smitten with him, and all of whom he constantly introduces himself as 'Secret Agent 00', because confidentiality apparently isn't a thing. It starts getting a bit silly by the hour mark, and really more of an excuse to pad the film out rather than humour. But at least Weng Weng one-ups James Bond and doesn't get most of them killed!

The villains are a pretty dull bunch. Just routine gangsters, no two any different. The only distinctive ones are =, and Mr. Giant. The former is a burly Chicago style mobster, while the sinister Giant is unseen until the final minutes. The twist about what he is is pretty easy to see coming, though I was looking forward to its reveal. It was handled pretty anticlimactically though. It's a theoretically funny reveal, but nothing is done with it, and he dies very [anticlimactically] after a brief fight.

I imagine For Your Height Only was always intended to be at least a little humourous, but it's the English dubbing that really takes that ball and runs with it. We get loads of over-the-top dialogue, silly voices and accents, and an all-round tone of irreverence. Examples include "With curiosity like that you're liable to wake up one morning and find yourself dead", and "They must be exterminated, and I mean lethally!", not to mention prodigious use of the words Dame and Broad, which I approve.

The effects here are decent for the most part, though often very low budget. For a film with as high a bodycount as this, it's not very violent. The occasional bullet wound will bleed, but most actors just flail around unconvincingly, and whenever Weng Weng impales someone with a sword, it's completely clean. Where it really impresses is in the crazy stunts!

The acting here is alright, with Weng Weng making for an amusing and kinda charismatic lead. The main villains are fun, and the women pretty, but pretty much everyone else is dull.

There's an alright score, with some original tunes, including the main theme. It's mostly comprised of lifted music though. The use of the James Bond theme goes beyond parody and into outright theft, and it's pretty annoying too. It just plays the same opening bars again and again, with no consideration for the rest of the tune, or the audience's patience.

For Your Height Only has got some funny stuff in it, and a great lead, but I found it to be too boring as a feature length movie. If only the writing had been better I would've enjoyed myself more.

The Impossible Kid

Several high-ranking businessmen have been kidnapped and held for ransom by a mysterious terror group, led by the evil Mr. X. Some have paid the money, some have refused and been killed, while others have been rescued by Agent 00, now working for Interpol. He searches for the culprits behind these attacks, and seeks to destroy the mastermind before his evil plans succeed...

As if listening to my complaints of the previous film, The Impossible Kid (also known as The Impossible Kid of Kung Fu) improves many of the faults at play with/in For Your Height Only, and is a much more entertaining time! It's paced well, the action is fun, there's a good balance of comedy, and most importantly the story actually works!

The plot here is pretty basic, but it's organised well. Everything you expect to happen happens, but in the proper order this time, and you're never feeling bored or annoyed.

This isn't really a comedy per se, with the only comedy coming from Weng Weng's stature. These moments are amusing, and the whole movie has an air of good-natured fun even if it's not a Ha ha comedy.

Weng Weng/Agent 00 continues to be a fun lead in The Impossible Kid, truly making the film live up to its title! He seduces more women at the drop of a hat (most of them half naked), and is the most badass person in any scene he's in. He kills a lot less people here too! He's an all-round great hero.

The villain here is pretty fun. Mr. X is a neat Bond-style baddie, though he's more of a fictitious persona for the true villain, and is kinda phased out after the first half, which is a shame. The baddie we get though is strong enough to make up for this. He's a very jovial antagonist, cackling at everything, while exercising the power of red tape. He knows the real way to strike fear into Weng Weng's heart! Not to blow up a building, shoot him, or stick him in a snake pit. No, it's filing a complaint with HR!

On that note, I love how all the authorities in the film pretend to listen to Cervantes's complaints, yet are always on Weng Weng's side, and encourage him to pursue his investigation. It's nice seeing higher-ups who aren't corrupt!

While not as plentiful as the last film, there are a few neat gadgets here for Agent 00. I like how accommodating the gadgets, weapons, and vehicles are in these films for Weng Weng's stature. It's sweet.

There's not as much fighting in The Impossible Kid when compared with its predecessor, which is very much a good thing. There's just the right amount. The stunt work also continues to be bloody impressive! The low budget and country in question make them all the more notable too!

The effects are on par with the previous film, with characters getting bloodlessly shot, or blown up by grenades that somehow don't disturb their clothes. The gadgets looks great though, especially the flying motorbike.

The acting here is mixed. The original actors are a mix of lively or wooden, being either over-the-top as they laugh maniacally, while others react with all the emotion of a robot. As for the dub acting, it's pretty decent. Cheesy of course, but never that bad  American, with what sounds like genuine Filipinos, as well as real Australians and fake ones "Lyets go to the boah!"

The soundtrack here is mostly quite good. There's this one alright track that gets repeated  but there's another track that's much better, comprised of a Pink Panther soundalike, and the 007 theme. This gets used way too much too, to the point where the climax feels nothing special musically, because it's just the same tune again. There are other nice tracks too, which thankfully see less repetition. The crowning achievement is by far the dynamic main theme, sung in English all about how awesome Weng Weng is. It's just the right mix of ironic parody and sincere ballad.

The Impossible Kid isn't great or anything, but it's a fun time to be had that never once bored me. I may not recommend watching For Your Height only in its entirety, but this definitely comes recommended  ...

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