‘To Russia with Love’: Trying hard to be a Hollywood romcom

The only interesting part is a ‘Revenant’-like scene, where Gerald Anderson engages in hand-to-hand combat with what looks like a real bear

A stiff Gerald Anderson stars in the bizarre Netflix rom-com To Russia with Love. That this Moscow-friendly movie is released amid the Russian-Ukraine war makes it more awkward.

Never have I seen Anderson so unrelaxed. He plays Dennis, a shy, hardworking single guy from Dipolog City. He seems to deliberately veer away from his showbiz image since his character comes off as asexual.

Without a push from his mother (Isay Alvarez), Dennis wouldn’t have gotten the courage to get close to the pretty Russian tourist, Oksana (Manila-based Siberian model Elena Kozlova), whom he met at an out-of-nowhere kayak ride.

Directed by Veronica Velasco, known for love stories set in foreign countries, the hackneyed, slow-paced rom-com opens with a 40-minute prologue promoting Dipolog tourism and watching Dennis act timid around the cheerful Oksana.

GERALD Anderson and Elena Kozlova in ‘To Russia with Love.’ | PHOTOGRAPHS COURTESY OF NETFLIX

When the setting shifts to Moscow, strangely at a sleep study (what is the relevance?), Anderson becomes even more difficult to watch as he turns into a fearful Dennis.

In Russia, the plot gets lost in a formulaic the-guy-must-win the-girl’s-dad’s-heart comedy. Screenwriter Biboy Calleja kicks the “strict dad” personality up a notch by making Oksana’s father (Scott Alexander Young) dangerous, with a tough bodyguard (Simon Szabo).

Young, as the “scary” Russian dad with a penchant for bear hunting and wrestling, has soft features and is generally mild-mannered, which does not make him threatening at all. Burdened by Anderson’s rigid acting, compounded by lousy dialogue, no funny moment comes.

There’s no romance either, since Dennis and Oksana, two grown adults, are like middle-school students in a puppy love phase.

NO romance: Dennis (Anderson) and Oksana (Kozlova) seem like middle-school students in a puppy love phase.

You almost feel sorry for Kozlova, who takes her romantic heroine role with gusto. For a newcomer, she is relaxed, trying to make the most out of her clichéd role. The rest of the foreign actors are also game, but their earnest performances are weighed down by the disjointed narrative and poor acting by Anderson.

‘TO Russia With Love’ promotional poster.

While the movie tries its best to promote inclusive beauty by putting plus-size women in a positive light, it pokes fun at Kakai Bautista’s face, who plays an immigrant named Gorgeous, with a self-described oozing sex appeal.

To Russia with Love tries hard to be a fun Hollywood rom-com, but ends up as a weird, dull flick, with touches of racism and stereotype. The only interesting part is a Revenant-like scene, where Anderson engages in hand-to-hand combat with what looks like a real bear.

0.5 out of 5 stars
On Netflix

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