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MOVIE REVIEW

'Only Human' is a fun-loving and entertaining screwball farce

"Only Human" is a dinner-from-hell comedy about a pretty Jewish Spaniard who brings a nice Palestinian guy home to her outspoken Madrid family. But the whiff of ``Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" is faint and insignificant. What could have been an 85-minute tutorial in Judeo-Arab relations is an exuberantly acted farce.

Leni and Rafi (Marián Aguilera and Guillermo Toledo) arrive at her parents' house nervous that their interfaith love won't be taken seriously. She has allowed her family to think Rafi was born in Israel. Grudgingly, he plays along.

That ruse is just one of the nutty multi generational developments afoot. Rafi gets to meet Leni's promiscuous belly-dancing sister (Maria Botto) , whose bratty 6-year-old daughter (Alba Molinero) likes to pretend she's pregnant.

Leni's 19-year-old brother (Fernando Ramallo) is keeping kosher and insisting his family be as observant as he is. Her blind grandfather (Max Berliner) has no problem retrieving his Israeli Army rifle from a closet. Meanwhile, Leni's father, whom we barely see, is working another late night at the office, while her intense mother, Gloria (Norma Aleandro) , glides from room to room in a state of operatic exasperation.

The screwball comedy stakes are raised when Rafi accidentally drops a container of frozen soup from the kitchen window, striking a passerby and putting him in the position of having to keep another secret. This is all a treat for us, though, since Toledo (wearing a beard and a mop of curly hair) proves as good a discreet comic actor as last year's ``Crimen Ferpecto" proved him a rowdy one. Toledo's trick here is his sparing use of eye contact. His scenes with the rest of the excellent cast are funny because they all seem to fluster and embarrass him.

Writer-directors Dominic Harari and Teresa Pelegri are a husband-and-wife team, and they have a fluid sense of timing and rhythm that bodes well for things between them at home. The last 20 minutes, which lead to the family patriarch's office building, are silly and overwritten. But their script is peppered with some sharp dialogue, a lot of which goes to the peerless Aleandro.

Take the moment when Leni tells her mother that she loves a Palestinian. So did Juliet love Romeo, Gloria answers. That was the Middle Ages, her daughter answers back.

Aleandro puts her hands lovingly to Aguilera's face and says, ``These are the Middle Ages." The sad reality of modern political life has rarely seemed as sophisticated, concerned, and robustly funny as it does coming from her mouth.

Wesley Morris can be reached at wmorris@globe.com.

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