Netflixable? A Spanish “Stand by Me” on Steroids — “Live is Life”

Throwing in a mewling infant is a bit much.

Granted, I was far enough into the sentimental Spanish coming-of-age melodrama that I thought, “You can’t do a knockoff of ‘Stand By Me’ without a body,” when lo and behold one appears. Then a second.

But in “Live is Life,” the bodies are of “Trainspotting” drug addicts. And stumbling across them, this “Stand Buy Me” gives half a thought to becoming “Five Teens as a Baby.”

Considering our 1985 15 year-olds are always wrestling with everything from a held-back-a-year report card to cancer, bullying and a desperate desire to kiss a girl, trespassing, vandalism, petty theft and grand theft boat — with a grand theft tractor to come — the baby is obviously one melodramatic flourish too many.

But the baby, its care, feeding and protection is given little thought in this get-it-all-in screenplay. Considering all the other issues, plot elements and dangling threads this Dani de la Torre (director) and Albert Spinosa (script) film has to deal with, that’s a wise de-emphasis. Just not as wise as leaving the infant out.

A bracing open introduces us to “Rodri,” short for Rodrigo (Adrián Baena), a kid fleeing a pack of goons — the school handball team, if you can believe that — in Alcorcón, a suburb of Madrid. He escapes into the old taxi his dad drives for the family’s summer vacation in the mountains of Galicia.

There, among the terraced vineyards where his grandparents live is where Rodri re-connects with his summer running mates.

There’s “The twins,” Alvaro and Maza (Juan Del Pozo, Raúl del Pozo). One is constantly going on about how good he is at karate, the other tells frank jokes about dying in between sharing details of the chemo that took his hair. Bespectacled richer kid Garriga (Javier Casellas) is the one with all the best soccer trading cards, all the fireworks he can carry and his pudgy heart set on kissing this girl from class. Soso (David Rodríguez) has a job, which helps his family, something that’s necessary since his father fell off a roof at work and has been in a coma.

Wow. And you thought telenovelas were a Mexican thing, and aimed at middle-aged women.

As Midsummer Night is here, they decide to undertake a quest, to camp out on a mountain top, locates flowers of this rare “Breath of the Earth” plant and make a healing potion out of it.

A lie to this or that parent, stuff a boomerang and a canteen in a backpack, and they’re off on this summer’s “great adventure.

Rodri’s parents, who don’t even believe he’s being bullied, are easy enough to fool. But bullying follows this kid like a bad debt. A pack of local motorbike hooligans called “The Sioux” have already run him off the road. They will be one of the many obstacles the guys have to overcome on their distracted, meandering quest.

But first they’ve got to stop at “The Templars,” a Medieval tomb where they tell lies, sip cola and chant “All together always” like the little nerds they just might be.

Our screenwriter wrote the Spanish version of “The Red Band Society,” about the sick kids in a hospital cancer ward, and an earlier boy-bonding melodrama, so he’s an old hand at getting the details right — starting with that magical tune that has all of Europe singing along in the summer of ’85.

No, I don’t remember the Austrian group Opus or their big hit “Live is Life,” but screenwriter Espinosa does, and the film has an almost-production number moment with everybody in a traffic jam singing along to it, some of them even getting out of their cars.

But the first sign that this coming-of-age dramedy is overreaching is the entire village full of problems that these five kids are wrestling with, and the second is their elaborate and not wholly believable plan to distract, sabotage and bike past The Sioux and Mr. Mullet (Jon López) their gang leader.

The journey takes days, and we see little evidence the lads brought much to sustain them on their odyssey. They prank locals, break into this or that place and generally follow the longest distance between two points to reach their goal.

Getting shot at by what I assume are pellet guns, an afternoon of drinking, bravely taking the shortcut through the sketchy side of one town they pass through — there are a lot of legs to this journey and a lot of scenes that don’t really move the plot forward.

The geography of this trek is a joke, as are the boat, etc., that they pick up along the way to help them complete it.

As the five boys get distracted, so do we, and all these promising story elements are introduced and left undeveloped. The kids hide, what, a cola stash into the crypt of a dead Templar? That’s a “sacred place” that maybe could have played a bigger part in their “crew” or “fellowship,” ennobling their quest. Develop that, and leave some of the other clutter out.

The sentimental moments include hugs and tears and some frank talk about death and living like today’s your last day — at 15.

“Living only teaches you to let go of what you have (in subtitled Spanish, or dubbed into English). “What matters is choosing kindness.”

“Live if Life” is original only in the number of movies it cribs from. But it isn’t “Stand By Me,” it’s not really “Five Teens and a Baby,” and it sure as shooting isn’t “Goonies.”

Schmaltz aside, I enjoyed this enough to recommend it up until it took that second act turn towards a baby, a teen party and all the stuff that had to be stuffed into the third act because of everything introduced in the first two.

Espinosa tosses all these balls in the air, and de la Torre (“La Sombra de la Rey,” aka “Gun City”) doesn’t really do justice to any of them.

Rating: TV-MA, violence, teen drinking, images of drug abuse, profanity

Cast: Adrián Baena, Juan Del Pozo, Raúl del Pozo, Javier Casellas, David Rodríguez and Jon López

Credits: Directed by Dani de la Torre, scripted by Albert Espinosa. A Netflix release.

Running time: 1:49

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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