Ahigh-profile cast and plenty of enthusiasm are not enough to save loot-pursuit comedy “Moscow Gold” from its hackneyed script. A potentially interesting concept swiftly degenerates into over-familiar farce. Only decent production values and the chance to see 40 years of Spanish comedy talent gathered together rescue pic from banality. The first helming effort by actor Jesus Bonilla, who also stars and co-wrote the script, film opened like gangbusters March 28, taking some $1.5 million on its first weekend, the fifth biggest opening ever for a Spanish film, per producers. However, beyond regular Hispanic territories only the occasional sale looks likely.
Gold being smuggled out of Spain by the Republican forces is lost at the start of the Civil War in 1936. Sixty years later, Beltran (Jose Luis Lopez Vazquez), on his deathbed, tells hen-pecked nurse Inigo (a slimmed-down Santiago Segura) that a secret code that shows the way to the money is hidden in a watch.
Inigo tells his story to the roguish Papeles (Bonilla), and the plot opens out to include Papeles’ prospective son-in-law, Macintosh (Gabino Diego); aging actress Pastora Bernal (Concha Velasco); diehard old fascist Faustino (Alfredo Landa); and a gang of Cuban communists headed by Vladimir (Alexis Valdes). All are after the gold.
Comedy generally involves characters hitting each other and yelling abuse. Occasionally pic aspires to Berlangian political satire, but the targets are generally passe: It’s hard to see the contempo relevance of pointing out the pompousness of old soldiers or the obsolete way of life in Communist Cuba.
On balance, the vets (Landa, Velasco) bring a depth to their one-dimensional characters that the younger generation (Segura, Diego, Valdes) can’t match.