Who would have guessed that Danny Glover and Maya Rudolph would make pleasant traveling companions for a tour of rural, backroads Mexico in pursuit of the perfect place to park his prized pig?
Actor and sometimes director Diego Luna, that’s who. With “Senor Pig (Mr. Pig)” he’s conjured up a pleasantly predictable time-filler if patently-absurd road comedy, more sentimental than silly. It’s up to Rudolph, playing things utterly straight, and the Glover at his most grandfatherly to make this work.
They never quite do, even as we get a glimpse of the Mexico old Ambrose Eubanks (Glover) remembers, a “beautiful country” or “good food” and “nice people.”
We meet Ambrose at the end of his tether, creditors nipping at his heels, his San Bernadino farm a cluttered, bankrupt shell of what it once was. Not that he gives that away to daughter Eunice (Rudolph) whenever she calls.
He’s 75, a sickly, broke and soon-to-be-homeless alcoholic who has just one asset free and clear, his beloved Howard, a pig. He flees town in a battered minivan, with a pocketful of just-received credit cards and a pig in the back, driving, sleeping on the side of the road and keeping the fact that Howard is undocumented and maybe a little sick himself from the authorities.
Until he hits Mexico. A little bribe keeps them going, but the place he’s selling the pig to, run by the son (José María Yazpik) of a long ago compadre, is this vast, gated complex of covered, crowded pens and a state-of-the-art abattoir. Howard just can’t do it.
“Imagine spending all your life in a little four by six pen, not able to even see the sun.”
Seventy-five is a little late for a pig farmer to grow this sort of empathy, but there it is. He can’t leave Howard there, can’t get him back across the border, can’t tell Eunice what he’s up to. But she finds him anyway.
And they’re off, driving from Jalisco to Guadalajara, hunting for Howard’s new home, a place where a breeding boar can have a life of porcine comfort.
The sweetness so informs the picture that you kind of wish Luna had taken the leap, cleaned it up and gone for something family friendlier than this. Howard’s drunken, profane tirades are abrupt and jarring, and don’t add a damned thing to the movie.
And something needed to be added. There aren’t enough incidents along the way, and what few there are we can see coming from a long way off.
Rudolph goes for “real” here, and that turns Eunice into somebody a hundred other actresses could have played. It’s a dull character given nothing special by putting a great comic in the role.
Glover has grumped through versions of Ambrose in scores of movies since his “Lethal Weapon” days. He’s charming, engaging to watch. But he alone, chattering away at a pig, is not enough to make the movie worth 100 minutes of your time.
The few samples of Mexican working class charm we’re treated to hint at a better movie that might have come from this idea, beginning with the better script that would have required.
MPAA Rating: TV-MA, much alcohol abuse, much swearing, much smoking.
Cast: Danny Glover, Maya Rudolph, José María Yazpik and Joel Murray.
Running time: 1:40