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Cross-cultural ethnic humor could hardly get wackier than it does in director Alejandro Springall’s comedy about a Mexican Jewish family’s mourning the death of their patriarch. While it veers into perilously cutesy territory-well, it does more than veer on a few occasions-“My Mexican Shivah” is a mostly entertaining romp that you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy.
After Moishe (Sergio Kleiner) drops dead while engaging in a particularly rambunctious horah, his extended family gathers for the requisite week of remembrance. Watched over by a pair of bearded angels deliberating over the deceased’s eternal fate, they must deal with such complications as the unwanted intrusion of a mariachi band; the price gouging of the shivah’s religious supervisor; and the confusion of the kitchen staff over the complexities of preparing kosher food.
The colorful cast of characters include Moishe’s son Ricardo (David Ostrosky), who takes a shine to his father’s shiksa mistress; his daughter Esther (Raquel Pankowsky), still bitter over her father’s betrayal of her mother; his drug-dealing grandson (Emilio Savinni) Nicolas, who has become a Hasid since taking it on the lam to Israel; and granddaughter Galia (Sharon Zundel), who becomes romantically interested in her newly religious cousin.
Although cliches abound in the script co-written by director Springall and Jorge Goldenberg, the film (which numbers John Sayles among its executive producers) manages to treat the foibles of its troubled characters with a gently affectionate humor. Featuring entertaining performances from a large ensemble who mostly overcome the stereotypical aspects of their roles, “My Mexican Shivah” earns points for its sheer exoticism.
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