To say “Mami Blue” lacks the budget and the cojones of the film that inspired it, Ridley Scott’s “Thelma & Louise,” is not to condemn it out of hand. This amiable, upbeat road movie about an elderly woman and an immigrant pursuing happiness while fleeing the law through the back roads of rural Spain deftly rolls some new themes, including racism and ageism, into the “Thelma” mix and passes the time agreeably, but for a comedy, it’s short on laughs. Spanish-speaking territories might bite.
Miguel Angel (Fele Martinez) puts his spirited 75-year-old mother Teresa (Maria Alfonso Rosso) into an elder-care facility from which she promptly escapes, aided by her Honduran domestic, Luz Estela (Lorena Vindel). Luz is running from petty crook Armando (Leo Rivera), who sets off in pursuit of money stashed in the car Teresa and Luz have stolen.
Armando, meanwhile, has betrayed gang leader El Gallo (Jose Maria Asin), who sends Pancho (Diogo Morgado) and Paco (Rui Unas) to locate Armando. After Teresa and Luz (the names are surely a nod to Scott’s heroines) rob a gas station in a scene that lacks tension and credibility, bickering cop couple Mario (David Fernandez) and Maria (Ruth Gabriel) give chase, providing those moments when the pic comes closest to being laugh-out-loud funny.
Thesps are mostly enjoyably over the top, with Rosso particularly hamming it up; the dependable Martinez helps make son Miguel the only character with enough nuance to generate aud sympathy.
Though the busy plotline is handled efficiently enough, it rarely detours into the unexpected; its feel-good messages about female solidarity, the meaning of happiness and how immigrants are people, too, likewise deliver no new insights. The script never raises the dramatic stakes high enough, and, indeed, “Mami Blue” works best when it draws attention away from the main story, with diversions that include delightful cameos from vets Chus Lampreave and Txema Blasco.
The irritatingly sprightly score harks back to 1960s comedies, and actively sabotages several scenes. Pic’s title refers to the Portuguese roadside nightclub where everyone ends up for the final showdown.