Vets and freshmen play off one another with mixed results in debut helmer Santiago Matallana’s “The Guardian Angel,” an affectionate family comedy set in upper-middle-class Madrid at the turn of the ’80s. Pic initially displays a deft touch before degenerating into a pleasant, if superficial, extension of a single joke. Business looks to be lukewarm.
Nerdy intellectual Jorge (Zoe Berriatua) and his brother, Mod Alvaro (Javier Albala, hammy), go to live with their mother’s side of the family after their father’s death. The household is governed by their grandfather (vet Manuel Alexandre), a retired Francoist general in his 80s who is losing his memory, drinks too much and spends his time at his club, plotting a military coup — which actually took place in 1981. The general has not spoken to his deaf, tyrannical wife, Dona Obdulia (Amparo Soler Leal), for years. The household is completed by Carmen (Marta Fernandez-Muro), the boys’ mother, who has returned to studying after her husband’s death, and Duli (Trinidad Iglesias), the chubby, terminally good-natured maid.
Jorge hates the eccentric chaos of his new home and starts stealing money from his grandfather, first from under his pillow and then from under his nose, reckoning the old man will forget it within five minutes. His deceit makes him rich and gives him power over his brother and his friends; then the family falls on hard times and Jorge falls in love, unsuccessfully. Meanwhile — in what could have been an interesting development — the military coup takes place, but pic’s safe sitcom mentality means it is gone as quickly as it came.
Short scenes dominate, many of them ending with a burst of mannered music. The aim of this device was presumably to keep the action flowing busily along, but instead it reveals how little the characters develop. In the final half-hour , characters and events become wearily predictable, although it’s a pleasure to watch Alexandre and Soler Leal make the most of their undemanding roles. Tech credits are fine.