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In American Adobo, a group of Filipino-American friends meet regularly to enjoy their
delicious native food, adobo, and update one another about their lives. Religiously
observant, generous Tere (Cherry Pie Picache) is a wiz in the kitchen but desperately lonely.
Marissa (Dina Bonnevie) is a career girl who seems to have it all, including a chronically
philandering boyfriend, Sam (Randy Becker). Handsome Raul (Paolo Montalban) is a
playboy who just can’t leave the ladies alone. Mike (Christopher De Leon) yearns to return
to the Philippines, if only to escape his rich, shrewish wife and self-involved kids. Chris
(Ricky Davao) is gay, but resolutely in the closet, despite a boyfriend dying of AIDS.

Director Laurice Guillen has fashioned a colorful, ethnic romp from Vincent Nebrida’s script.
She healthily manages to smash asexual stereotypes of Asians by showing how exceedingly
lusty her characters’ libidos are. She’s sensitive to their various emotional situations. What
a pity, then, that the material is so second-rate. At one point, Mike‘s daughter screams,
“Don’t turn us into one of those Filipino families in those awful films you watch!” But that is
just what American Adobo too often threatens to become. Marissa keeps taking back that
no good lout, Sam. Chris mistakenly mails his unsuspecting mother (Gloria Romero) nude
photos of himself and his lover, and dashes back to Manila to retrieve the incriminating
envelope (in the nick of time, of course). The corny deathbed encounter between himself,
the boyfriend and Mom really weighs things down. Raul discovers he may himself be
infected with the AIDS virus and happily settles down with a blonde nurse (who
suspiciously resembles a Playboy centerfold). Tere starts a fire in her kitchen and finally
finds love in the burly arms of the fireman who rescues her. Through it all, one major
question is never answered: Why do they all, with the single exception of Mike, have white
romantic partners?

Some of the performers manage to do nicely with the clichés they’ve been handed. Picache
is touching and makes you really feel Tere’s pain. Montalban is as dashingly handsome as
he was when he played Prince Charming to Brandy’s TV Cinderella, and easily conveys
Raul’s shallowness. Romero brings a much-needed autocratic strength. De Leon and Davao,
actors with much experience, are both, however, rather surprisingly stiff. Bonnevie is shrilly
artificial in her moments of passion and anger, much better in her calmer moments. Becker, as
he did in Love! Valour! Compassion! and Lie Down with Dogs, gets naked.

—David Noh