Netflix original movie Como Caido Del Cielo is a sort-of warts-and-all celebration of the truth and legend of singer and movie star Pedro Infante. He was a gifted singer who, in the 1940s and ’50s, became Mexico’s Sinatra-slash-Elvis, the “King of the Bolero” musical and an idol throughout Latin America. He died young, at 39, when a plane he was co-piloting crashed, tragically. He also was a serial womanizer who frequently cheated on his wife, a fact that’s important for the context of this movie, which reflects on Infante’s life via — hold onto your sombreros — a high-concept body-swap/reincarnation comedy.
COMO CAIDO DEL CIELO: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
The Gist: Pedro Infante (Omar Chaparro) is in Limbo. The Powers That Be can’t decide if he should go to heaven or hell — his music and movies inspired happiness in many, but he treated the women in his life poorly. After many years (does time pass the same in Limbo as it does here?), the Powers have devised an insanely convoluted shit-or-get-off-the-pot scheme to finally determine whether Infante deserves eternal paradise or torment: He’ll occupy the body of a Pedro Infante impersonator who happens to be in a coma and who also happens to have a velveteen voice and also also happens to be a practitioner of the infidelitous arts. No wonder he was in Limbo so long — they had to wait around until the perfect opportunity came along to determine whether Infante can redeem himself via the impersonator’s morally compromised situation. But if the Powers are so powerful, why didn’t they just create the scenario sooner? DON’T ASK THAT QUESTION.
Anyhow, Pedro Guadalupe Ramos (also played by Chaparro), lying unconscious with dire prospects in a Tijuana hospital, gets the plug pulled on him and, miraculously, at that very moment, with a whooshy-CG special effect, awakens with the mind and soul of Infante. The stage and matinee idol finds himself not only dealing with culture shock (OMG CELL PHONES), but also in a difficult personal pickle. Ramos’ wife, Raquel (Ana Claudia Talancon), has supported him through thick and thin. The thin part is, he’s been boinking her cousin, Samantha (Stephanie Cayo), Miss Tijuana with the $10,000 breasts. Of course, nobody knows he’s really THE Infante in Ramos’s body — that’s too insane any “odd behavior” is credited to his post-coma amnesia. OK, sure!
The plot stacks up Ramos/Infante’s problems like a precarious Jenga tower. The mayor of Tijuana wants him dead. He hopes to earn the respect of Infante’s granddaughter, Jenny (Yare Santana), who waits tables while she studies feminism in college. He sings to Raquel and woos her back, until she’s served with divorce papers he filed pre-coma (d’oh!). Then Samantha snatches him and brings him back to test out the new mattress she financed for 70 months. Infante’s attempts to right Ramos’ ship involves numerous situations that are muy ridiculoso: an Infante-impersonation contest, a job as a dishwasher, a boxing match, a TV game show, women repeatedly trying to woo him, etc. Meanwhile, two naked dad-bod angels routinely check in to verify whether he’s being naughty or nice. Will he end up among the flames and demons, or in the place with all the clouds and Jesus and crap?
What Movies Will It Remind You Of?: The big reference point is Heaven Can Wait, in which Warren Beatty plays a pro-football quarterback who dies and, due to a procedural technicality, gets another shot at life in the body of an eccentric billionaire.
Performance Worth Watching: Raquel is essentially the plot’s punching bag, because if something lousy happens, it happens to her. This means Talancon enjoys the only truly earnest part in a super-screwballed comedy.
Memorable Dialogue: Did I mention Raquel is a police officer? “He had nerve, cheating on an armed woman,” Raquel’s father quips — and he said that before she got the divorce papers and fired a few rounds at him as he scampered down the street in his underwear, civilians diving out of the way.
Sex and Skin: Just some mostly clothed smoochyface.
Our Take: This concept is so high, it must’ve smoked 20 doobs. After his awakening, Infante/Ramos snatches a violin and plays it expertly — but isn’t that talent tied to muscle memory? Crazy that the Ramos body could harbor such skill, and everyone around him just shrugs. Does anyone else notice that Ramos looks exactly like Infante? I mean, they’re played by the same actor. Or is that something only he, and we, the audience, see, even though the screenplay never addresses it? Are we expected to believe that Raquel’s debt for Ramos’ three-month hospital stay is only $15,000? Speaking as an American, I’d LOVE to pay $15k for a 90-day coma. It’d be a dream! Should I be taking this all so seriously? Who said I was taking it seriously?
This, of course, is what happens when humans behave the way a plot wants humans to behave. The idea comes first, and characters are puppets executing its narrative demands. Hence, the emphasis on mildly amusing wacky situations, and a missed opportunity to address gender politics in a meaningful way. Of course, every comedy needn’t have Something to Say, but those that do tend to have resonant characters and longevity (he said, officially taking it seriously).
Yet director and writer Jose Pepe Bojorquez shows enough affection for the material to render the film moderately charming. It’s sloppy and needs another whack in the editing room — the entire game-show sequence could be cement-shod and tossed in the gulf, and the film would have more pep. But a director’s biggest challenge is tone management, and Bojorquez keeps it light and fanciful, only occasionally flirting with melodrama, and the easy vibe goes a long way. He also emphasizes Infante’s songs, which are charismatically performed, and frequently used as a cure-all for conflicts. Music is something that brings us together, and all that, and a little bit of naive idealism isn’t such a bad thing.
Our Call: STREAM IT. Como Caido Del Cielo is very silly and too long, but its heart is big.