Sin Noticias de Dios (Don't Tempt Me) Made in: Spain Language: Spanish, French, English Director: Agustín Díaz Yanes Starring: Penelope Cruz, Victoria Abril, Demián Bichir, Fanny Ardant, Gael García Bernal, Emilio Gutiérrez Caba, Cristina Marcos, Elena Anaya, Bruno Bichir, Luis Tosar Year: 2001
Synopsis: In this metaphysical comedy, Manny (Demián Bichir), a former boxing champion, is knocked out during his last bout. With a severe head injury, he's forced to retire from fighting or risk death if he takes another hard blow to the head.
Unbeknownst to the dense and utterly cloddish boxer, the forces of Heaven and Hell are fighting over him. Heaven, on the verge of bankruptcy, has received a request from Manny's mother to save his soul. Knowing that this will shift the balance of power in their favor, Marina D'Angelo (Fanny Ardant), who acts as Heaven's operations manager, dispatches an angel named Lola (Victoria Abril) to Earth.
Normally a lounge singer in Heaven, Lola enters Manny's life as his spouse. She also takes a lowly job as a sales clerk whose stellar job performance has made her unpopular among her fellow employees.
Lola's rival is Carmen (Penelope Cruz), a former gangster who's been condemned to the 33rd Circle of Hell as a waitress. Hell's own operations manager, a young man named Jack Davenport (Gael García Bernal), sends Carmen to Earth as Manny's long-lost cousin.
With all three living under the same roof (and with Carmen taking on a position as the store manager where Lola works), the two spiritual beings constantly try to one-up each other. Knowing that Manny's declining health puts the whole situation on a limited timetable, Lola implores Manny to do good while Carmen tempts him to go back to the ring (where he will surely die).
But amidst all that, Manny has gotten into serious trouble with a corrupt police commissioner (Emilio Gutiérrez Caba), to whom he owes over $25,000.
Things in the after-life aren't going so well either, with both God and Satan seemingly ignoring their respective dominions. Heaven, inhabited by decadent-looking aristocrats who speak French, is on the brink of financial collapse.
Hell, while doing better on the surface (and run by stuffy English snobs), is suffering from managerial incompetence and plagued with petty bureaucratic turf wars.
With his job on the line from scheming underlings inside his own department, Davenport manipulates the rules of the game. As a result, Carmen and Lola find themselves having to work together against a minefield of earthly stupidity.
The Good: With an all-star cast and interesting premise, Sin Noticias de Dios is an amusing satire about greed and pet peeves in the workplace. Portraying Heaven and Hell as being run like businesses was a creative approach, and the use of multiple languages added a nice touch.
The story moves at a good pace, and it's definitely fun to see all the things that Carmen and Lola do to try to undermine each other. A good deal of humor is subtle and clever, and parts of the movie raise some pretty smart philosophical thoughts.
The Bad: The central conflict, ownership of Manny's soul, isn't explained, and it's never clear as to why his soul in particular is so important. This is an element that's deliberately left vague, but comes across as a cop-out to cover an otherwise gaping plot hole.
The story development gets convoluted towards the end, and shifts focus away from the entertaining spectacle of watching Carmen and Lola go head-to-head. Although the plot twist involving Davenport is neat, the climax of Sin Noticias de Dios feels rushed and barely gives you a chance to think about what just happened.
Who would like this movie: Sin Noticias De Dios is for you if you like foreign languages, offbeat comedies, and of course, foreign films. The humor is based more on satire and social commentary rather than slapstick, and might make more sense to you if you're familiar with European culture.
Overall, it's full of irreverent fun that never becomes too obnoxious or offensive. And watch for an uncredited cameo appearance by Spanish star Javier Bardem.