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The Two Sides of the Bed

A more enjoyable follow-up to the 2003 hit "The Other Side of the Bed," musical comedy "The Two Sides of the Bed" reprises previous pic's lively mix of frothy pop and romantic wrangling, and uses mostly the same gang of endearing protags. More substantial script and a more mature air this time round result in a slightly darker, richer experience.

Cast:
With: Ernesto Alterio, Guillermo Toledo, Alberto San Juan, Maria Esteve, Pilar Castro, Lucia Jimenez, Secun de la Rosa, Veronica Sanchez.

A more enjoyable follow-up to the 2003 hit “The Other Side of the Bed,” musical comedy “The Two Sides of the Bed” reprises previous pic’s lively mix of frothy pop and romantic wrangling, and uses mostly the same gang of endearing protags. More substantial script and a more mature air this time round result in a slightly darker, richer experience. Superior fare by the standards of often-dire Spanish comedy, movie enjoyed good B.O. during the Christmas holidays, suggesting auds will again snuggle up comfortably in this “Bed” in territories that warmed to the earlier item.

Javier (Ernesto Alterio), best buddy Pedro (Guillermo Toledo) and Javier’s g.f., Marta (Veronica Sanchez), are in a restaurant where Raquel (Lucia Jimenez), Pedro’s partner, is singing. Javier and Marta are to be married the next day, but Marta is getting cold feet. When she and Raquel head to the bathroom to have sex together, we understand why.

The girls’ canoodlings are observed by the wildly drunken Carlota (Pilar Castro), who joins the boys for the stag evening, along with cabbie Rafa (Alberto San Juan) and Carlos (Secun de la Rosa).

Next morning, Marta leaves Javier standing on the church steps, Raquel leaves Pedro and the next half-hour has the boys feeling generally despondent. Rest of pic largely details the males’ too-slow realization of the truth and their increasing dependence on Carlota.

For a romance, pic is notably unromantic: Amour is pretty much reduced to sex and there’s zero emotional delicacy on show. Characters are self-obsessed, endlessly searching for impossible happiness in a world where neuroses have made authentic emotion impossible. Gay theme, which seems implausible at first, is nicely rounded out by a later development.

The women are confused but intelligent, and the men are confused and dumb. In time-honored farce style, David Serrano’s script exploits the multiple misunderstandings to varying comic effect, with the physical and situational comedy generating fewer laughs than the often spot-on character work.

In performance honors, the men are the standouts. As Javier and Pedro, Alterio and the popular Toledo (“Ferpect Crime”) have terrific on-screen chemistry, exploited particularly well during the final reel, while San Juan galvanizes the brutish Rafa’s attempts at sophistication in line with Carlota’s demands.

On the distaff side, both Sanchez and Jimenez generate a real erotic charge in their grapplings but have little chemistry beyond the physical. As Marta, Sanchez fails to narrow the gap between her ruthless character and her doe-like appearance. Castro is nicely peppy as the independent-minded Carlota.

Songs are new arrangements of ’70s and ’80s Spanish pop classics, and emerge fairly seamlessly from the action. Voices range from the impressive (Jimenez, who honed hers in the Spanish stage show based on the first pic) to the awful (Toledo). Most impressive is a well-arranged version of an ’80s piece originally performed by one-time Almodovar cohort Alaska; other items are rarely more than pleasant, and occasionally plodding.

Choreography usually involves about 20 dancers appearing from nowhere in unlikely places, and is more energetic than precise. Visually, pic employs a range of well-known Madrid locations.

The Two Sides of the Bed

Spain

Production: A Buena Vista Intl. release of a Telespan Producciones, Estudios Picasso, Impala production, with participation of Tele 5, Canal Plus. (International sales: Telespan, Madrid.) Produced by Tomas Cimadevilla. Executive producer, Alvaro Augustin. Directed by Emilio Martinez-Lazaro. Screenplay, David Serrano.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Juan Molina; editor, Fernando Pardo; music, Roque Banos; art director, Juan Botella; sound (Dolby Digital), Agustin Peinado; choreography Pedro Berdayes. Reviewed at Yelmo Cineplex Ideal, Madrid, Jan. 4, 2006. Running time: 112 MIN.

With: With: Ernesto Alterio, Guillermo Toledo, Alberto San Juan, Maria Esteve, Pilar Castro, Lucia Jimenez, Secun de la Rosa, Veronica Sanchez.

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