CLFF Review: ‘Once Upon a Fish’

Dominican Republic | 2014 | 80 min.
Director: Francisco Valdez
Genre: Comedy
Spanish with English subtitles

Friday, April 17, 2015, 6:15 pm at AMC River East 21 Theatre
Shown with The Worst of All

Saturday, April 18, 2015, 7:15 pm at AMC River East 21 Theatre
Shown with The Worst of All

De pez en cuando (Once Upon a Fish) feels like a sitcom. Think Arrested Development in the tropics and in Spanish — only not nearly as creative or funny.

This Dominican film directed by Francisco Valdez follows a chaotic day in the life of Ben, a hapless and glum writer. But the campiness quickly turns dark when Ben decides (and fails) to off himself. His landlord request tosses Ben into a whirlwind game of cat and mouse, with thugs suspecting him of knowing the whereabouts of a mystery package. Hilarity is supposed to ensue but never really does — though, as if to mask this shortfall, the filmmakers casted three stunning actresses to play the roles of the neighbor, the ex and the damsel in distress.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t regret having watched the movie. It’s not that bad. It’s just not that good either.

The production value is up to par, and the plot provides enough twists to keep you wondering what’s next. However for a self-styled comedy, De pez en cuando doesn’t offer much in the way of actual comedy. There’s a lot of slapstick and tongue-in-cheek humor, which would probably see some viewers falling out of their chairs laughing. I have an aunt who would love this movie

You’d think a movie with such a clever title would be sprinkled with little comedic flecks of equal wit. But where De pez en cuando should surprise us, it merely coasts along till the end, at which point you the audience member go on with the rest of your day, hopefully satisfied for the short diversion at least.

Maybe I’m being too harsh on the movie. When I say this film wasn’t funny, I should be clear that it wasn’t funny to me. Everyone has a sense of humor unique to them, of course. A lot of people enjoy cheesy, fat-guy-falls-down comedies.

Then again there’s the new Paul Blart sequel, which tells me that, de vez en cuando, people will laugh at anything.

[Photo: Chicago Latino Film Festival]