There’s a difference “cute” and “cutesy.” But until the Mexican road comedy “All the Places (A todas partes),” I’d never tried to split hairs between “cute-ish” and cutesy.
It’s about two semi-estranged siblings who mend fences by taking a cross-country motorcycle trip to see “all the places” they’d wanted to go as children, when they first negotiated such an odyssey.
The travelogue value of their journey is given short shrift. And even the scenes that play a little funny have a sitcom Ross-and-Monica in “Friends” energy about them. They’re a bit winded, a lot of “seen that before.”
Mauricio Ochmann plays Fernando, the jet-setting workaholic who has lived in Singapore for years and who gripes that “(expletive) Mexico” (in Spanish or dubbed into English) is why he missed their father’s funeral — inefficient airport, unhurried cabbie.
But that’s just a fresh grudge to add to other grievances for Gabriela, whom Fernando insists on calling “Gabo” (Ana Serradilla). He left her and the family behind, and missed their stress-inducing father’s transformative last years, his death and his funeral.
To Gabo, “Fer” is an exemplar of Dad’s old saying — “If the coffee lacks color, it’s clear.” Fernando has shown everybody his priorities.
An evening of steady pressure for her to cut him a little slack climaxes in a game of ping pong lubricated with tequila shots. That’s how they laugh again, and how they stumble into their teen map and travel book, in which they vowed to cross the country to Acapulco on their motorcycles, binging on every hotel’s “entire menu,” to see “A todas partes” from the seats of their Carabela motorcycles.
They’re tipsy when they dust off the long-unused bikes, and helmet-free as they motor to the city square in San Miguel de Allende. But when they sober up, Fernando is frantic to get back home, back to the client who has been blowing up his phone.
Nope. Gabo won’t hear of it, and they’re off down winding desert mountain roads, stopping at a Fiesta de Vino y Queso (wine and cheese), hitting Tlaxcala and Mexico City, flirting with strangers, trotting out their childhood tapdancing routine, picking up hippies who help them trip with mushrooms and getting into a cantina fight over a ping pong match along the way.
Yes, I know it’s a dated reference, but come on. “Friends.” Ross and Monica. You see it, right?
Just a couple of scenes manage any comic payoff, and only one finds the pathos that this sentimental journey promises.
We get precious little in terms of local sights, people or cuisines, although there are a couple of binge eating scenes.
The whole “work pressure” subtext is forgotten as Fernando slips back into Mexican priorities — family, vacation, wine and tequila — almost leaning into stereotypes.
How “dangerous” such a trek would be is only addressed comically, as the hippies want to see some ID and take selfies with them before they’ll chance a hitchhike ride from these squares. Even the notorious local police are reduced to doofuses overly proud of their hometown, quick to harass the condescending strangers.
There’s a nice friction between the foul-mouthed, combative leads that suggests the movie this might have been.
But back the entire affair with syrupy, colorless Muzak and no one will mistake this fluff for “Motorcycle Diaries” or those charming “Long Way” motorcycle-travel documentaries of Ewen McGregor and Charley Boorman.
The makings of a charming formula road picture are here. But director Pitipol Ybarra and screenwriter Adriana Pelusi abandoned too many ingredients for “All the Things” to come off.
TV-MA, sexual situations, drinking and motorcycling, mild violence, profanity
Cast: Ana Serradilla and Mauricio Ochmann
Credits: Directed by Pitipol Ybarra, scripted by Adriana Pelusi. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:37