Published Jul 28, 2015Mortadelo y Filemon (known to Anglophones as Mort & Phil) are beloved Spanish comics characters. First featured in 1958, it was a comic book that first launched the two characters into the European zeitgeist. As the Spanish Peanuts, it's no wonder, then, that there's now a big budget 3D movie about them.
Best described as an animated spy farce, Mortadelo and Filemon: Mission Implausible is a modern take on the classic characters. Mortadelo and Filemon had always been rooted in cartoonish slapstick extremes, and this film is a high-end tribute to that. Though it's been acclaimed by critics — it won for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Animated Feature at the 2014 Goya Awards (think Spanish Oscars) — it feels as much like a love letter from someone that wanted to bankroll a childhood favourite.
Mortadelo and Filemon work for a spy agency called the T.I.A. (Técnicos de Investigación Aeroterráquea) — it sounds like a spoof on the C.I.A., but that's really only because of how it sounds (like many of the punch lines in Mortadelo and Filemon: Mission Implausible, this is woefully lost in translation) — that's been infiltrated by Jimmy el Cachondo, who has obtained some of the agency's most embarrassing internal data. Fearful they'll be ridiculed by other spy agencies, the T.I.A's commissioner enlists some assistance from back pocket agents Mortadelo and Filemon.
At the same time, a monstrous criminal, Tronchamulas, who Filemon put in prison and is now looking for vengeance, is pursuing Filemon, the bossier, delusional one of the pair. Because of a personality reversal elixir created by the T.I.A.'s Professor Bacterio called "reverscence," they end up banding together to take down Jimmy el Cachondo and his henchmen. Then they just end up fighting each other.
Sounds crazy, right? It is, and it doesn't stop there. The appeal to Mort and Phil has always been slapstick, and while it's usually Filemon that gets the worst of it, no one is safe; every character, at one point or another, loses a limb or a whole set of teeth (the latter are an especially big thing in this film — everyone loses them). It's cartoon madness at its finest.
These characters are sent through the mills of pain — endlessly so — and a panel or two later, they've been reset. Mortadelo is even known to make a few costume changes, a la Bugs Bunny, to fool his adversaries. You'll find yourself laughing out loud, especially when the endless misery accrues to the point of lunacy. Adding to the weirdness and humour is the fact that this movie is dubbed to English; it works, but not intentionally so.
It's a kids' film, but it appeals to adults. Many Europeans of a certain generation recall these characters fondly. And while for North Americans, Mortadelo and Filemon: Mission Implausible might feel a little foreign, there's enough similarity to our own cartoon history that it feels familiar, too.