Compared to their American equivalents, Spanish imports rock a vibe that can’t be duplicated. Just check any of Telemundo’s saucy daytime dramas versus our straight-faced network soap operas, and you’ll be treated to silliness abound. But that’s on a nationally televised level – graduate to big-budget theatrics, and we’re talking productions that are nuttier than a Payday bar (or whatever your favorite peanut-laced treat is).
My Big Night is, without a doubt, one of the more ludicrous ensemble pieces I’ve seen in recent memory, guided by the zany ambition of Álex de la Iglesia (The Last Circus and Witching & Bitching). Are you ready for over-dramatized comedics and a cornucopia of chaos driven by goofy, slapstick maturity? Or, would it be immaturity? Not quite sure. How would you define a subplot where some Fabio-lookin’ pop star has his semen stolen by a BJ-specialist who doesn’t swallow? Strap. The. Hell. In.
Every year, Mediafrost Studios records their famous New Year’s Eve celebration special as a stage production, not a live show. This gives the team time to edit and perfect each segment, but it also means a week’s worth of recording for performers, extras, and all the workers who keep cameras rolling.
Unfortunately, 2016’s production goes wildly off the rails, from Alphonso’s (Raphael) diva-like requests, to a full-fledged riot outside thanks to 500 workers being laid off. An extra, Jose (Pepón Nieto), finds himself experiencing feelings for the beautiful Paloma (Blanca Suárez), Adanne (Mario Casas) has trouble fighting his sexual urges, and the hosts (husband Roberto (Hugo Silva) and wife (Carolina Bang) bicker over every line of dialogue. There’s no business like showbusiness, that’s for damn sure.
My Big Night is a glam-tastic spectacle piece that’s all about goofs, choreography, and dapperly dressed attendees. Picture yourself getting dressed to the nines for a loud, obnoxious concert believed to be a lavish, exaggerated party de résistance, but after three hours, you realize there’s more fun in gussying up than the event itself. Iglesia lifts a curtain, letting us into the anarchistic world of television production, but with so many subplots, this sing-y, dance-y soiree overbloats with underdeveloped subplots. Bigger ideas are whittled down and condensed to squeeze more off-color insanity when “necessary,” as this Gastby-esque shindig becomes a joke-filled facade complete with fake food and plastic champagne glasses.
Yet, there’s method to Iglesia’s madness. All the cogs move as one dramatic glitter-bomb, creating a galavanting musical production that charms through satirical character. Alphonso, played by actual musician Raphael, is a Tom Jones-y performer who lampoons stuck-up veteran acts, while the all-looks, no brain Adanne humps his way around stage during his innuendo-pumped “Fireman” song (poles, hoses, and burning faces). It’s jovial, crowd-pleasing fun, dancing the Conga and all, which provide momentary releases from smaller problems being explored elsewhere. Concerning showmanship, Iglesia delivers a grandiose show – one heightened through destruction (a mobile command unit working on their backs while overturned) and the time-altering universe caught inside a fake, two-faced reality.
What My Big Picture does best, through comedy, is address a duality between life and fabricated fantasies. Carolina Bang and Hugo Silva are the paparazzi-followed celebrity couple that people adore, yet their firecracker banter represents a true expression of frustration. Same with Alphonso, who abuses his PR rep Yuri (Carlos Areces) like a bastard stepchild – because he is, also, Alphonso’s bastard stepchild. Then you’ve got Adanne’s manager Perotti (Tomás Pozzi), on a quest for his client’s splooge, Jose’s emotional journey with Paloma (which only happens because of the magical allure of NYE), and Óscar (Jaime Ordóñez), the superfan-turned-hitman boasting pipes from an angel. Obscurity is asked for, and all actors deliver – just some better than others.
My Big Night (named after an Alphonso song) culminates exactly as expected, as all roads lead to a bullet-bouncing shootout amidst an impromptu foam party, which spurs a perfectly encapsulating reaction – “I’m not sure what’s going on, but I kind of like it.” Had America attempted such a film, the result would have been some dry-as-sandpaper New Years Eve knockoff, so let’s thank Álex de la Iglesia for spicing things up a bit. It’s bonkers, off-the-well filmmaking with a focus on laughs, not continuity, but as the band plays on, you’ll find yourself infectiously tapping your foot instead of rolling your eyes. Surely not Iglesia’s best, but still entertaining – without seeking attention on a Miley Cyrus level of sadness.
My Big Night sings and dances its way into our hearts, if only because of a Spanish kookiness that's more Telemundo than our more serious American equivalents.