The Spanish comedy Don’t Tempt Me imagines Heaven and Hell as places so deeply mired in the business-as-usual hassles of earthly life that the battle between good and evil becomes a downright dull affair. The problems plaguing the afterlife are supposed to be funny. Paradise looks like Paris in the ’30s, but is on the brink of bankruptcy, and God is too depressed to rally the seraphic hordes. Meanwhile, devilish CEO Davenport (Y Tu Mamá También‘s Gael García Bernal) hatches a plan to strengthen the Underworld, which evokes a balmy, dimly lit Ikea. Both forces dispatch agents to earth to compete over Manny (Demián Bichir), an idiotic boxer with numbered days and a soul up for grabs.
Though the angels are supposedly the best in the biz, they’re practically devoid of team spirit. Pretending to be Manny’s wife, Lola (Victoria Abril) radiates meek joylessness as she urges the fighter to abandon the ring and make amends with his mother. As Satan’s helper Carmen, Penélope Cruz doesn’t hold a candle to her cocaine-huffing enabler in Blow. She’s given a chance to be promoted out of her cafeteria job in Hell’s 22nd circle, but on earth, posing as Manny’s cousin, her badness is conscripted to mugging in front of the mirror, going on a bender, and lesbian tendencies.
Then again, what sensible angel would really want to win misogynistic Manny? Perhaps realizing this, director Agustín Díaz Yanes attempts to give the plot importance by strong-arming it from one absurd crisis to another. The angels learn that whichever side gets Manny will rule everything, and don’t ask why. Later, as a coup brews in Hell, Davenport informs Carmen that she must lose Manny’s soul. The two angels forego their bickering and join forces. Unfortunately, this only emphasizes that there wasn’t much distinguishing them to begin with.