Three Many Weddings (Tres bodas de mas): Venice Review

Tres Bodas De Mas Still La Biennale di Venezia - H 2013

Tres Bodas De Mas Still La Biennale di Venezia - H 2013

Passion, poppers and poop drive along this fine-looking but disposable party film, which should work just fine for its young target audience. Otherwise, it’s all just too familiar.

The third outing from lucrative Spanish comedy director Javier Ruiz Caldera closes Venice Days.

It was the funeral in an earlier film about weddings that lent emotional ballast to that project's comedy and made it memorable. But in Three Many Weddings, a kind of Spanish Bridget Jones, there’s no such balance. Javier Ruiz Caldera’s Spanish Movie was an over-the-top, low-denominator pastiche, and his follow-up, Ghost Promotion, a campus comedy with an enjoyable twist. On this evidence Caldera runs into more trouble when starting from the materials of life itself, but cast and marketing should ensure that this take on another insecure, bespectacled woman's struggles to find love will play well in Spain to the teen and post-teen demographic following its December, 2013 release. In the end, the producers know that everyone loves a wedding, making extensive offshore sales likely for this high-profile Spanish project.

Marine biologist Ruth (Inma Cuesta, in her first comedy feature), doing research into lobsters, is dumped at her ex’s wedding by politically alternative Pedro (Berto Romero), one of the more appealing characters, who appears too little. Ruth’s forlorn emotional life is made worse by her pregnant boss, Sara (Maria Botto, a fine actress underemployed in Spanish cinema), but her tousle-haired, handsome new assistant, Dani (Martino Rivas), who will accompany her throughout the following shenanigans, lends a sympathetic ear.

The second ex to whose wedding Ruth is invited is manic surfer Mikel (Paco Leon, a popular TV actor in Spain, and director of last year’s acclaimed Carmina or Blow Up. Mikel’s wedding bash is a wildly hedonistic beach affair, with the sort of atmosphere that leads pleasure-seeking 20-somethings worldwide to vacation in Spain. Here Ruth meets the suspiciously quietly-spoken, polite neurosurgeon Jonas (the dependable Quim Gutierrez, the only character apart from Ruth with any complexity), in whom she sees partner potential.

The third wedding, of Ruth’s ex Alex (Laura Sanchez, who delivers the film’s best speech), who has undergone a sex change, is a more somber affair in a picturesque Spanish pueblo.

The thin, off-the-peg plot of this loud, raucous and derivative item is basically a device on which writers Pablo Alen and Breixo Corral can hang as many gags as they can think of. Despite the film's awareness that political correctness exists, many of the gags are drawn from the frat-boy school of bad taste, involving for example an adolescent’s erection, a urinating baby and several other bodily functions: a toilet episode late on is signaled so amateurishly that it could only be entertaining to a ten-year-old who’s never seen a comedy before. Some of the humor is just flat-out weird -- one joke about a white baby drinking from a black nipple will fly over most viewers’ heads.

Occasionally the film hits the humor spot, and there are moments of visual wit, but what’s really lacking here -- apart from laughs -- is human sympathy, with the scripters preferring to pile up the gags rather than look at the world through the characters’ eyes. Little seems to have been based on observation of life itself, and much has been downloaded from other films.

Despite everything, Cuesta comes over well, though the script’s continual urge to plunge head-first into the next gag means that she is never given the time to develop the comic neurotic interest of, say, Bridget Jones -- both in having an insecure heroine and in its title, the film seems to be clinging onto the shirt tails of successful, altogether subtler Brit comedies. Other performances see a raft of well-known TV actors struggling to wriggle out of the straitjacket of stereotype.

Visually, and indeed on the technical side generally, the film is accomplished fare indeed, with wonderfully vibrant colors giving everything the edge of slightly heightened reality, including much of the attractiveness on display. The jangly pop songs that turn up about every three minutes are pleasant enough, and veteran popsters have an unexpected chance to hear the Brotherhood of Man’s Save All Your Kisses for Me one last time, but the use of music is generally sledgehammer. Europe’s power ballad Carrie, a movie maker's standby for those moments when overwrought emotion is required, plays a key part.

Venue: Venice Film Festival (Venice Days, closing film)
Production companies: Think Studio, Ciudadano Ciskul, Apaches Entertainment, A3 Media Cine
Cast: Inma Cuesta, Rossy de Palma, Quim Gutierrez, Maria Botto, Martíno Rivas, Laura Sanchez, Paco Leon, Silvia Abril, Joaquin Reyes, Berto Romero
Director: Javier Ruiz Caldera
Screenwriters: Pablo Alen, Breixo Corral
Producers: Eneko Lizarraga Arratibel, Francisco Sanchez Ortiz, Enrique Lopez Lavigne, Belen Atienza, Mikel Lejarza, Mercedes Gamero
Executive producer: Maria AnguloDirector of photography: Arnau Valls Colomer
Production designer: Sylvia Steinbrecht
Music: Javier Rodero
Costume designer: Cristina Rodríguez
Editor: Alberto de Toro
Sound: Salva Mayolas, Pelayo Gutiérrez, Nacho Royo-Villanova
Sales: Film Factory Entertainment
No rating, 94 minutes