A homage to (and sometimes amusing parody of) sci-fi comics, energetic geekfest "Santos" spirals off into hit-and-miss zaniness, delivering its better moments more by accident than by design.

A homage to (and sometimes amusing parody of) sci-fi comics, energetic geekfest “Santos” spirals off into hit-and-miss zaniness, delivering its better moments more by accident than by design. Still, there’s a satisfyingly coherent bedrock to the intriguing, wacky universe it depicts. Pic’s kitschy air could win it a following among sci-fi diehards, though other offshore prospects are slim.

Comic-loving kid Santos grows up to become a famous comic artist (Javier Gutierrez) on the payroll of childhood friend Arturo (Leonardo Sbaraglia), now a megalomaniac. Their relationship with Santos’ g.f., Laura (Elsa Pataky), forms pic’s realist strand, intercut with animated scenes from Santos’ comicstrips. These primarily feature a human/fly hybrid, the excrement-addicted Antropomosco (Guillermo Toledo, nuanced), who tells Santos that the artist has been chosen to save the world. Writer-director Nicolas Lopez seems to have crammed every idea he ever had into his vision of an alternative universe, “Doubleverse,” which makes the solidity of the plotline even more remarkable. Amid all the overkill, there’s some real visual wit — a futuristic prison cell with bar codes on the walls is one example — and dozens of film references will keep buffs alert.

Santos

Spain-Chile

Production

A Buena Vista Internacional (in Spain) release of a Drive Cine, Aldea Films, Estudios Picasso (Spain)/Sobras.com Producciones (Chile) production, with participation of Tele 5, Canal Plus. (International sales: Imagina Intl., Madrid.) Produced by Jose Manuel Lorenzo, Eduardo Campoy, Nicolas Lopez, Elizabeth Avellan. Directed, written by Nicolas Lopez.

Crew

Camera (color), Chechu Graf; editor, Diego Macho; music, Manuel Riveiro; art director, Nelson Daniel. Reviewed at Cines Acteon, Madrid, Sept. 18, 2008. (Also in Sitges Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 111 MIN.

With

Javier Gutierrez, Elsa Pataky, Pablo Pinedo, Leonardo Sbaraglia, Guillermo Toledo.

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