Only Human Review

Jul 07, 2006 | 7:22am EDT

It’s Passover in Barcelona and newly engaged lovers Rafi (Guillermo Toledo) a Palestinian professor and Leni (Mariana Aguilera) a Jewish actress apprehensively arrive at her parents’ home after a grueling time in airport customs. Within minutes of stepping into the chaotic apartment of her eccentric Jewish family--of course they believe Rafi to be Israeli--we are instantly thrown into Guess Who's Coming to Dinner with Romeo and Juliet Focker. The characters move and scramble about as we meet Leni’s redheaded Yamaka-wearing younger brother David (Fernando Ramallo) busy imposing his strong religious beliefs on his liberal family--taping light switches lighting candles and hiding cell phones in an attempt to recognize The Sabbath. Then there's Leni's endearing yet provocative older sister Tania (Maria Botto) who has a penchant for sleeping with strangers and belly dancing. Rafi can barely catch his breath when mom Gloria (Norma Aleandro)  finds out he’s not Jewish. The tail spin has begun and through a series of witty dialogue rich in political overtones as well as Woody Allen-esque slapstick we stand in disbelief as one of the worlds most dysfunctional families attempt to find harmony amidst utter chaos. As the wiry curly-haired University level Arabic literature teacher Toledo succeeds in turning Rafi into a one-man-show á la Italian funnyman Roberto Benigni and is a pleasure to watch as he’s dumped into one unfortunate mishap after another. And although his fiancée in the film is well played by Aguilera it is  Botto’s sexiness and charm--not to mention absolutely delightful dance scene with Rafi--that adds much needed flare to the ensemble cast. And as the blind slightly deaf and questionably senile war veteran Grandpa Dudu Max Berliner brilliantly transforms himself into a delightful male version of Ruth Gordon wandering about the home aimlessly delivering laugh after laugh. Oscar-nominated Aleandro (Gaby) rules her family with boundless neuroses and it is as if she walks through walls to some how always be in the right place at the wrong time to interject her opinions into just about every scene. The impudent niece wannabe fundamentalist brother as well as a colorful group of characters we meet along the way one-liners and well-timed comedic scenes could quite possibly turn this little dish into a major course. Husband and wife filmmaking team Teresa De Pelegri and Dominic Harari successfully accomplish what they set out to--creating a smart witty and hilarious film about two polar opposite backgrounds and bringing it together in a taut politically viable and eloquent way. At no point are we asked to choose a side in the film only to sit back relax and listen as the characters play out a delicate situation in an organic comedy-first way. Only Human eventually strips away any impressions we may have had by blurring the lines so much we can’t help but find similarities in their backgrounds. In 85 minutes we are given just enough to fulfill our appetites for these characters--and even if it feels at times like the story is trying a bit too hard exhausting certain points  a simple act of vaudevillian comedy refreshes everything for us. This film is a fun ride filled with everything from sexiness physical comedy and toilet humor moments what would do a Farrelly brother proud.

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