Today’s dose of Around the World with Netflix takes us to Christmas in Colombia, a manic, noisy farce that begins on the Day of the Little Candles and ends on Christmas Eve — “An Unremarkable Christmas (¡Qué chimba de Navidad!).”
Never heard of the Dia de las velitas? That’s why we watch international films, isn’t it? We learn about other cultures, their traditions and we wonder if they laugh at the same things we do.
This antic comedy, a stand-alone Christmas movie with characters from a Colombian TV series (“Chichipatosis”) is an exercise in excess — so many characters, so much…decor. That’s one of the reasons “noisy” suits it. It’s not just the characters who’re loud, it’s the over-decorated holiday-ready houses we’re treated to.
Yes, the gaucherie is a gag and yes, we’re allowed to laugh at that sight-gag in this broad goof on a family’s holiday blundering into a money laundering scheme. Other laughs, too few in number alas, concern a college kid’s crush on a novitiate nun, a daughter’s love for a mohawked punk, mother-in-law gags and gigolo jokes.
Nothing like a little cleavage for Christmas, eh? Viva la diferencia!
Juan (Antonio Sanint) is a hapless accountant with an insurance company whose boss (Luis Eduardo Arango) longs for the “family” Christmases he spent at home growing up.
Invite him to the Day of the Little Candles party, then! Maybe Juan can show off his magic act, if he can just get a rabbit who’ll cooperate.
Wife Margot (María Cecilia Sánchez) and daughter Monica (Mariana Gómez) take the news in stride, because son Sami (Julián Cerati) is home from music school in Argentina. Apparently, he picks up the accent of wherever he goes (a running gag from the TV series, I take it).
And that’s not all he picked up in Argentina. He’s in love. Rosalba (Majo Vargas) is quite the looker. But uh, son, that pink outfit? It says she’s a nun.
That’s OK. Sami has written her a song to convince her to give up the Mother Church.
“Let me see the treats you hide under your habit,” he calls it (in Spanish with English subtitles). That should cinch the deal, right?
Let’s ask Grandma (Aura Cristina Geithner), or better yet, her rich, younger model/chef boyfriend (Martin Karpan).
A couple of cops (Júlio César Herrera, Cristian Villamil) are on the trail of an infamous money launderer, but aren’t letting that interfere with their Day of the Little Candles celebration.
And the money launderer’s son (Biassini Segura) has been summoned from his marshmallow business to take part in the family’s bigger enterprise. And guess what? His Dad, the “infamous Orduz” mob boss/money launderer is actually…Juan the accountant’s boss.
There’s a lot of shouting, a bit of arguing, and every so often this character or that one stops to pray/make a wish to the Immaculate Conception.
Monica’s punk beau isn’t impressing Dad. Oh yeah?
“Destroyer (Fredy Morales) will be your grandchildren’s FATHER!”
“Unremarkable,” a silly story spun off a sitcom and narrated by the family cat, doesn’t include many translatable laughs. The speed and energy are there, but the Colombian TV movie budget was mostly spent on actors — there are many — and decorating the sets with Christmas crap.
No money for a good car or foot chase, no cash to hire a couple of comics to joke this thing up. The players have a moment here and there, a good line or broad over-reaction. But as farces go, this one is more promising than hilarious.
It’s not terrible, but it’s not nearly funny enough to sustain this much story, caper, family dynamics and the like.
MPA Rating: TV-14, threats of violence, sexual situations, rude language
Cast: Antonio Sanint, Luis Eduardo Arango, Mariana Gómez, Júlio César Herrera, Biassini Segura, María Cecilia Sánchez, Lina Tejeiro, Cristian Villamil, Julián Cerati, Majo Vargas, Fredy Morales and Aura Cristina Geithner
Credits: Directed by Juan Camilo Pinzon, script by Dago García. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:22