- The Washington Times - Monday, March 19, 2001

trp 51 55 2 'Me': Childish, cheap caperMOVIES / Gary Arnold ''Me You Them" is a title that might warm the heart of Douglas McGrath's Allen Quimp in this weekend's other comical bummer, "Company Man."

A self-appointed grammar cop, Quimp observes at one point that "A society that neglects its objective pronouns cannot reach proper objectives."

The parched humorists responsible for "Me You Them," a Brazilian import booked exclusively at the Cineplex Odeon Dupont Circle in this area, construct a bait-and-switch rattletrap predicated on the ostensibly mirthful carnality and fertility of a peasant earth mother named Darlene.

Darlene, who is introduced departing the family shack in a state of advanced pregnancy, fails to rouse her stoic and recumbent mother by declaring, "I'll be back." Mama's tart rejoinder, "Don't bother," is destined to haunt moviegoers who decide to stick it out in hopes of encountering another deadpan nifty somewhere along the way.

Darlene is portrayed by one of the more bewildering man-traps in movie history, Regina Case, evidently the toast of Brazilian soaps and sitcoms in the recent past. Maybe something gets lost in translation and the culture gap, but Darlene's allure, even for desperate bachelors in the boondocks of northeast Brazil, seems difficult to fathom.

Pregnancy emerges as a running gag. Darlene specializes in getting pregnant and finding consorts to mind the babies, invariably little boys. She deposits the eldest with his reputed dad, a rancher photographed only from the torso down. After accepting the marriage proposal of a grizzled, indolent, middle-aged householder named Osias (Lima Duarte), Darlene fails to offend him decisively by a compromising dalliance with a passing goatherd. The ensuing infant is named Ednaldo.

Darlene's next conquest is a neighboring lonely codger and domestic drudge called Zezhino (Stenio Garcia), who has been sharing quarters with Osias' surly sister, Raquel (Nilda Spencer). Smitten with Darlene, Zezhino makes himself part of the Osias menage and fathers another of Darlene's son, Edinardo.

Short-tempered with Zezhino, Osias gets perversely hospitable when the insatiable, faithless Darlene picks up with a fellow laborer in the cane fields, handsome Ciro (Luiz Carlos Vasconcelos), begetter of yet another son, Edvaldi.

Cuckoldry seems to have its consolations for Osias, who insists on naming rights for every child. The movie's big sentimental joke is that he's ultimately a doting wretch and sincerely possessive of a paternal instinct despite his inability to command Darlene's loyalty or affection.

If the director, Andrucha Waddington, weren't so ponderous about depicting an open-ended Dogpatch menage, the jest might seem slightly clever and redemptive. The butt of the joke is eventually dignified as a stouthearted mensch.

But given the ponderous tread of the scenario, this isn't an adequate emotional payoff. If anything, you've been allowed to suspect that Darlene's children pretty much fend for themselves. The idea that legitimacy might have some value comes as an incongruous surprise.

"Me You Them" may be easy to misconstrue. Mr. Waddington makes a shaggy-dog polygamy fable seem as grueling as a day in the cane fields.{*}TITLE: "Me You Them"RATING: PG-13 (occasional profanity, sexual candor, comic vulgarity, fleeting nudity and simulated intercourse)CREDITS: Directed by Andrucha Waddington; screenplay by Elena Soares; cinematography by Breno Silveira; production design by Toni Vanzolini; costume design by Claudia Kopke; and music by Gilberto Gil. In Portuguese with English subtitlesRUNNING TIME: 107 minutes

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