Directed by Manuel Gómez Pereira. Starring Verónica Forqué, Carmen Maura, Marisa Paredes, Mercedes Sampietro, Betiana Blum, Gustavo Salmerón, Unax Ugalde, Hugo Silva, Daniel Hendler, Paco León, Raúl Jiménez, Lluís Homar. (2005, R, 107 min.)

REVIEWED By Toddy Burton, Fri., Oct. 13, 2006

What happens when a law is finally passed that allows same-sex couples to marry? To some, it’s the downfall of an institution, to others, a necessary step toward equal rights. To Spanish director Pereira, it’s occasion to make a big ensemble comedy. But despite a talented cast, a cosmopolitan setting (Madrid), and a timely premise, the film never manages to be either very funny or very compelling. And it’s definitely not a good sign that my favorite part about this film is the opening credits: gaudy Technicolor flamboyances that made me sit up in my chair in hopes of maybe some Almodóvar mixed with a little Doris Day. Unfortunately, what I got was Days of Our Lives mixed with a little Lifetime Original Movie. The meandering interwoven plot follows the events leading up to a collective gay wedding that’s also a media frenzy marking the legalization of gay marriages in Spain (made official in 2005). The queens of the title refer to the mothers of three male couples tying the knot. As preparations are under way for the celebration, the couples must contend with their overwhelming, overcritical, overemotional, or oversexed mothers. Imagine Meet the Parents times five. And without Owen Wilson. But no one can fault this film in its casting. With four Almodóvar alumni (Forqué, Maura, Paredes, Homar), the ensemble comprises some of Spain’s acting royalty. So what’s the problem? A weak and silly script stretches itself too thin, chasing rambling storylines about lost dogs and striking workers. The absence of genuine emotion or spark from any of the couples contributes to the feeling that this broad comedy would have been better off cutting the cast in half and doubling the time spent working on the script. Clear attempts at cinematic playfulness interrupt the film as the filmmakers have some fun with the timeline, jumping around the narrative. But the result is an episodic feel which lends itself that much more to the sense that Queens missed its calling as a soap opera. Indeed, the film lacks the complexity, visual style, and emotional charge of decent filmmaking. Because the leading women are such strong actors and the men primarily endearing (particularly Salmerón and Homar), there are threads of entertainment in this messy exercise. But as a celebration of gay marriage, it’s not making a very good case.

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