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Ideas are scarce in 'Ana Maria in Novela Land'

Ideas are scarce in 'Ana Maria in Novela Land'
Edy Ganem, Michael Steger, Mercedes Masohn, Elizabeth Pe-a, Nestor Serrano and Pepe Serna in the movie "Ana Maria in Novela Land." (Fluency Studios / Synthetic Releasing)

There's nothing particularly transporting about "Ana Maria in Novela Land," a slight, one-gag comedy about a telenovela-obsessed young woman who magically trades places with the show's femme fatale star.

Essentially a Spanish-accented fusion of "Trading Places" and the 1991 John Candy comedy "Delirious," the film stars energetic Edy Ganem ("Devious Maids") as the self-absorbed, freshly unemployed title character, who usually can be found tweeting about her favorite soap, "Pasión Sin Limites."

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That is, until a glitch caused by a lightning storm causes her to swap lives with the show's sexy lead character (also played by Ganem), resulting in all sorts of mayhem.

The production notes proudly point out that the two characters — Ana Maria Soto and Ariana Tomosa — are anagrams, it would have been preferable if some of that cleverness had been put on screen.

Instead, the script, co-written by director Georgina Garcia Riedel and Jose Nestor Marquez, plays like a first draft that misses out on comic opportunities.

Ultimately, the film will be remembered for actress Elizabeth Peña's final performance. As Ana Maria's no-nonsense mother, Peña (who died last year at age 55) brought to Señora Soto the qualities she displayed in so many of her roles, no matter how minor: substance and dignity and, whenever required, enviable comic timing.

"Ana Maria in Novela Land."

No MPAA rating.

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.

Playing: AMC Burbank Town Center 8, AMC Norwalk 20, AMC Orange 30.

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