San Diego Asian Film Festival 2014: ‘Blue Bustamante’ predictable but amusing

Once you know that the main character of “Blue Bustamante” is named George Bustamante and you’ve already seen the movie’s poster art, you can figure out that the blue stands for two things–George’s state of mind and a certain blue TV character. This low budget movie is a predictable but fun look back at the 1990s and is perhaps best meant for fans for the Power Rangers.

Writer/director Miko Livelo (with co-writer John Elbert Ferrer) takes us back to a time before cellphones, Skype and emails and brings us an age old problem–a man leaving home to support his family. That is how America was built, with the help of Chinese, then Japanese and Filipino immigrants, often exploited and subject to great prejudice. Livelo doesn’t want to dwell so much on these serious issues. His George Bustamente (Joem Bascon) is a white collar worker, leaving his insecure wife June (Dimples Romana) and their only child Kiko (Jhiz Deocareza) to work as an engineer in Japan.

Arriving in Japan, George finds himself out of work and desperate. With the help of a new friend (Roger Grace), George becomes a stunt double for a new sentai show. Sentai is the Japanese word for military unit or squadron and Super Sentai Series are TV shows in Japan which features a group of costumed superheroes like the Power Rangers. The name of the series George finds himself working on is “Force Five” and he’s the stunt double for the blue character.

As this is before Cosplay went big and San Diego Comic-con became huge, men weren’t very open to running around in lycra spandex. George was embarrassed about his new vocation and won’t tell his wife (who ends each of her whiny, longing notes with a threat). Yet in the Philippines, the “Force Five” show is also wildly popular among kids, including his son. Kiko is bullied and finds himself four fast friends–all victims of the bully.

As his son finds confidence from “Force Five,” George fends off the attentions of a lovelorn Japanese woman and begins to improve at his secret job.

This movie embraces its low budget and fashions “Force Five” as a low budget quickly assembled rip-off of a sentai series like the Power Rangers. The movie doesn’t get everything right about Japan (and I haven’t been to the Philippines) and one wonders how George expected to get a good job with his inability to speak Japanese.  The acting is sometimes a bit awkward and the editing could have tightened things up.

Still, if you have a thing for Japanese Super Sentai Series, this 2013 comedy might give you a little chuckle, particularly if you gather your own Sentai fan group and watch it together. The movie is currently making the festival rounds and is not yet available on DVD, but you can always “Like” the movie’s Facebook page.

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