“Just Short of Perfect” is an Around the World with Netflix romantic comedy from Brazil, a sentimental but clumsy search for laughs in pairing up a tall bombshell and an exceptionally short but rich suitor,.t.
Or as they say in Hollywood, “How things work out here.”
I’ll limit myself to one bad but unavoidable pun by saying as “low” farces go, this one falls short. OK, that’s two but I got them both into a single sentence.
Juliania Paes, whom you might remember from the Brazilian drama “Farewell” or one of the remakes of “Dona Flor and her Two Husbands,” plays Ivana, a vivacious 40something attorney in the middle of divorcing her bullying law firm partner Danilo (Marcelo Laham).
Danilo fights her over their dog, their offices, everything. We can guess, from his priorities (money), that he’s about to have second thoughts about breaking up the “partnership.”
But Ivana loses her phone, and this charming stranger calls her house to offer it back. He makes jokes about his last name, “Leão” — Portuguese for “lion, — and agrees to meet her and return the cell.
He’ll recognize her, he assures her. Which he does. But when Ricardo Leão (Leandro Hassum) introduces himself, she cannot help but notice he’s half her size.
The sight gag, repeatedly endlessly in this strained “cute” romance, is achieved through forced perspective, simply filming Hassum, last seen in the Brazilian holiday farce “Just Another Christmas,” separately when need be. He’s always seen with tables, chairs, car seats, Ivana and everything else practically towering over him. The effect isn’t seamless — we can see he’s lit differently in the trick shots — but it’s more than convincing enough.
Ricardo’s size does not reflect his confidence. He jokes, pulling out his ID “to show you I’m a grown man (in Portuguese with English subtitles).” He boldly takes her out sky-diving, lets her know his profession (cardiac surgeon), and talks her into a second date, and a third.
We’re supposed to buy his “charm” as winning her over. Maybe we can. Maybe not.
But when the Pope has heart problems on his way to a visit to Brazil, it is “world famous” Dr. Leão they call. As if Ivana isn’t impressed enough, her diminutive suitor grabs the mike post-surgery and gives the world the word — in Latin, just like they do when they’re naming a new pope in Vatican City.
Him taking her to an exclusive dance club where he takes the stage to sing and play the upright bass on Bamboleo seals the deal. Well, after a club creep hits on her and he’s challenged to a “Macarena” dance-off, which Ricardo naturally wins.
But just as Ivana is falling for Ricardo, the big obstacles make themselves heard and seen. Her ex unloads a tirade of “runt” jokes. Ricardo shows up, as her date, for her brother’s same-sex wedding and he’s confused for being the “dwarf” in their wedding song and dance entertainment.
And when that ridiculous mixup is settled, her mother (Elizângela) can’t stop blurting out short jokes and tactless “dwarf” references, one after the other.
“Is he old enough to drink? Is he old enough to drive?“
Hassum is a big star in Brazil, but anybody viewing this from the rest of the world might wonder if height is the biggest reason “She’s out of his league.” He’s not the prettiest matinee idol, and his comic gifts aren’t showcased very well here.
The movie’s “We are what we are” messaging has some heft to it. Dr. “Very Short” isn’t shy about dropping “Fatty” on an omnipresent pizza delivery guy.
But recycled “little man sex” gags, too-obvious fart-jokes and unfunny “translation” blunders — explaining what’s going on at the wedding for the least convincing “Alabama in-laws” this side of Reese Witherspoon’s little comedy of a few years back — limit the appeal and entertainment value in this “break stereotypes” tale.
Rating: TV-14, sexual situations
Cast: Juliana Paes, Leandro Hassum, Elizângela and Marcelo Laham.
Credits: Directed by Ale McHaddo, scripted by Michelle Ferreira. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:35