How bad is the Colombian farce “No Andaba Muerto, Estaba de Parrando,” clumsily translated to “Death Can Wait” on your English language Netflix menu?
After flailing away for what seems like forever, setting up “You have six weeks to live” premise, its travel-agents-stumble-into-the-company’s money laundering scheme and thus skip off for the European vacation of their dreams, mugging for the camera and nattering and chattering unfunny jokes, running “gag,” our two leading men are subjected to the film’s first genuinely amusing moment.
In a simple streetside cafe one-on-one conversation between the “dying” Juan Pablo (Ricardo Quevedo) and his annoying, exhausting nuisance of a “like a brother” colleague, Javier (Nelson Polonia), writer-director Fernando Ayllón “breaks the plane.”
He stops his comedy cold by tripping over one of the fundamental rules of seamless filmmaking. It’s rare. A few have done it on purpose over the decades, but it’s almost always a clumsy mistake. I can’t remember the last movie I saw, outside of a student films showcase at a lower tier film school, where it made it into the movie.
“No Andaba Muerto, Estaba de Parranda” actually translates as “I’m not dead, I was just out partying,” and the phrase is a Spanish language meme that’s been around for years. Google it and you see jokey photos of dead dictators (Franco, Castro) and others.
The film is about the put-upon Juan Pablo, misused by his gold-digging, cheating girlfriend, pranked by her punk son, arm-twisted and hustled by the security guard at his workplace and forced to do all the work that the dolt, cellphone game app-addicted, gum-snapping boss is supposed to do.
Then there’s the overbearing and infantile colleague Javier, a motormouthed boor always leering at the new assistant (Liss Pereira) and taunting his “brother” about how his life isn’t working out, when it’s obvious neither of these two have anything to get up for in the morning.
Their running word-game gag, where they launch into rhymes like “baker, maker, taker, and “faker” on hearing any random word that can be rhymed in conversation, isn’t funny. Their punning riffs on “naked truth” and the like aren’t funny, even allowing for “lost in translation” issues.
And then a fall at work sends Juan Pablo to the hospital (by crowded city bus, because ambulances would cost the company too much). And the MRI reveals, his distracted, heartless, sexing-up-her-nurse doctor gives him the news before answering her phone.
“Glioblastoma…six weeks to live,” she says (in Colombian Spanish with English subtitles). “Put your affairs in order…Enjoy your last days. Excuse me.”
Nobody reacts to this in any conventional way, although the girlfriend’s “life insurance” question when Juan Pablo is considering what to do before he dies is almost funny.
An absurdly generous bonus at work (where he doesn’t reveal his death sentence) leads him and Javier to jump to the correct conclusion that the owner (Ana Cristina Botero) is using the over-staffed office for money-laundering, leads them to impulsively chuck it all and jet off to that “bucket list”” vacation — Barcelona, Paris, Genoa, Marseilles and Ibiza.
It’s just that “NOBODY steals from Miss Lucy and LIVES!”
As the film opens with Juan Pablo narrating his introduction, from his coffin, at his wake, we know shenanigans are afoot.
The trouble is, they aren’t forthcoming. It takes over an hour for “No Andaba Muerto” to give the lie to that first half of its title — “I’m not Dead.”
The third act has some splendid shtick, a brawl with a hitman, tumbles here and there, a laugh-out-loud corpse-come-to-life moment. Physical comedy is sorely missed in every single scene that precedes these.
The production took Netflix’s money and flew to the various cities and found virtually nothing funny to do in them — mugging for the camera here, trying to improvise a tightrope walk illusion there, dancing with street entertainers.
Setting a second Notre Dame (in Marseilles) on fire with a votive candle is funny, and torching an Italian museum while the Italian-trying-to-speak-Spanish tour guide is distracted is good for an “Innocents Abroad” laugh.
But even that arrives too late to resuscitate this corpse. You can tell from the credits that the stars have made names for themselves in earlier comedies. “Death Can Wait” does their reputations no favors.
Rating: TV-14, gunplay, sexual situations, alcohol abuse
Cast: Ricardo Quevedo, Nelson Polonia, Liss Pereira and Ana Cristina Botero
Credits: Written and directed by Fernando Ayllón, A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:30