Romance and rambunctiousness sit cheerfully hand-in-hand in helmer/co-screenwriter Borja Cobeaga's engaging sophomore comedy, "Lovestorming."

Romance and rambunctiousness sit cheerfully hand-in-hand in helmer/co-screenwriter Borja Cobeaga’s engaging sophomore comedy, “Lovestorming.” Yarn about a man trying to win back his ex’s heart on New Year’s Eve supplies crowd-pleasing mirth and melancholy in roughly equal measure, and although the pacing is dodgy and an air of excess hangs over the proceedings, the film’s feel-good freshness sees it through. Featuring one memorable character who is likely to become a household name in Spain, pic deserves fest play, but its multiple references to Spanish matters may keep it from whipping up an offshore storm.

Having broken up with his g.f., Bea (Alexandra Jimenez), heartbroken Sergio (Unax Ugalde) is due to fly back on New Year’s Eve to his journalist’s job in rural Spain, while she is off to start a new life in Germany — but all flights are grounded. On the plane, Sergio runs into former schoolmate Juancarlitros (Julian Lopez), a motor-mouthed wannabe comedian who irritates all around him with a continual stream of bad jokes.

They are sent to a hotel where Bea is also staying, and Juancarlitros takes it on himself to try and save Sergio’s relationship before the night is over — he refers to their plight as, “like ‘Die Hard’, but in love.” Aided by manic, recently divorced Juanan (Secun de la Rosa), quiet Ecuadorian hotel worker Jimmy (Alfredo Silva), and game flight attendant Laura (Mariam Hernandez), Juancarlitros organizes a New Year’s Eve party and invites Bea, aiming to reconcile her with Sergio. Plans are complicated by the arrival of Bea’s new boyfriend, smoothie Ernesto (Miguel Angel Munoz).

As with Cobeaga’s debut, “The Friend Zone,” the film’s appeal largely depends on its genuine affection for the underdog and its skillful employment of romantic and screwball comedy motifs, albeit with a distinctively Spanish slant. Action shuttles between earthily comic setpieces that are sometimes perfectly executed, sometimes overcooked (one standout features Juancarlitros having to give Sergio a love bite), and intimate moments in which the dependable Ugalde (acquitting himself well in his first comic role) and Jimenez generate some real onscreen chemistry. The farce is generally well handled, even if the comedy of embarrassment involving the unwittingly racist Juanan and Jimmy is both overdone and old-hat.

Pic really belongs to Lopez’s Juancarlitros, a twitching bundle of unself-conscious energy with an appalling mullet and a lovably innocent face. His incessant quipping is a source of aud pleasure, but he also has a melancholy side. Lopez revels in a role he’s apparently been made for and generates a handful of laugh-out-loud moments.

Some scenes overstay their welcome, while the script could have been tightened over its first and final reels. Spanish title is a reference to an old pop standard the pic employs as its theme, one of many references that local auds will find hilarious but which will not travel well.

Lovestorming

Spain

Production

A Vertice Cine release of a Telespan 2000, Antena 3 Films, Sakaya production in association with ETB and with the participation of Canal Plus. (International sales: Vertice, Madrid.) Produced by Tomas Cimadevila, Mercedes Gamero, Nahikari Ipina. Directed by Borja Cobeaga. Screenplay, Cobeaga, Diego San Jose.

Crew

Camera (color), Aitor Mantxola; editor, Raul de Torres; music, Aranzazu Calleja; art director, Julio Torrecilla; costume designer, Monica Cristofoletti; sound (Dolby Digital), Agustin Peinado. Reviewed at Cines Princesa, Madrid, Jan. 6, 2011. Running time: 96 MIN.

With

Unax Ugalde, Alexandra Jimenez, Julian Lopez, Miguel Angel Munoz, Secun de la Rosa, Mariam Hernandez, Alfredo Silva.
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