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July 20, 2006 By:
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o life, to life -- to tsuris! That's the story behind the daffy Dalinskys of "Only Human."
In loco parentis? Forget the parents; this whole family is loco.

"Only Human" is a "Meet the Fockers" over frittatas, a loopey Lope de Vega novel in which the inquisition comes down to this: "Mommele, Poppele, meet my fiance, the Palestinian."

Opening Friday at Ritz theaters, "Only Human" is only one of the funniest comedies of the year, a Spanish-Jewish jambalaya about kosher porkers and a family so mixed up, they are the poster people for Prozac.

If Velazquez had been around to see this film, he would have created the masterpiece "Las Meninas Mishuguhs" and thrown away his brushes.

Indeed, Madrid and mishuganahs: perfect together? Yes, in this film by a couple with their own crazy credentials: Dominic Harari is English, of Egyptian Jewish ancestry; his wife, Teresa de Pelegrí is Spanish Catholic, converted to Judaism.

Not even Torquemada could unravel the tortured love-hate relations that mix amour and animosity in the sparring Spanish onscreen family who know that love means never to have to say siento.

Or tsuris, for that matter.

"Only Human": Olé and oy vey. But does the Jewish family, the Dalinskys, at the front of the line in this Sephardic set-up have to be Jewish? "No," says Harari, "but it helps."

The Dalinskys could use some help. The "normal," dependable daughter has brought home Rafi, a Palestinian, as her fiance as the others pick up verbal stones and toss them at him. He's not above throwing things either, namely a frozen bowl of soup from a window, which may have inadvertently killed his future father-in-law with a "ka-nock" to the head that sent him sprawling.

Meanwhile, Gloria, "a middle-aged woman who thinks there'll be peace in Israel before her husband gives her an orgasm," considers her other daughter Tania a weightlifter; after all, how else to explain how she can pick up a different man every night and throw him on the bed?

And so David? His kipah is a keeper since he discovered Orthodoxy. And just what is Zayda Dudu doing with a rifle pointed at everyone's head if he can't see? Blind justice?

Just your typical Sephardic sociopaths?

Could be anywhere, explains Harari with a hearty laugh: "We show the film everywhere. In Italy, they think it's a typical Italian family. It's a craziness that goes beyond Jewishness."

Does it all hit home for the Hararis, the odd couple of accomplishment who both direct and write their projects together? Family "is a major source of inspiration," kids De Pelegrí.

"We sort of mixed and matched from our own family," says her husband.

"We love our family. They give us great joy -- and pain and suffering."

In a way, it's a paean to progeny and parents everywhere. And it all goes against type; type in Dalinskys in Google, and it spits out a Spanish curse with Yiddish accents.

After all, this is a film in which that great healer, chicken soup, turns possible killer.

"It's a world that exists," says Harari. "A Spanish Jewish world."

But make theirs Manhattan; indeed, Harari and De Peligrí met while pursuing master's degrees at Columbia University in New York. Since 1994, they've collaborated on a number of projects, including "Atrapa-La," for Catalan TV.

But extrapolating family life from familiar turf led them to this, their theatrical film debut.

And they've chosen premier people -- Spaniards and Jews -- as the most natural mix of all: Paella and prachas?

"Spanish and Jews are both culturally very Mediterranean," says Harari. "A big connection is their passion; they can't take things lightly."

And how do the Hararis at home take it? Do they see evidence of themselves in these chaotic characters with a mishmash of corazon and kishkes?

"Our own family recognizes these [characters] as others in the family," says De Pelegrí.

"But they don't recognize themselves," laughs her husband.

But, please, if you see the real-life extended family of Hararis on the street, extend a hand not a straightjacket.

"We use our imagination," says Harari, thankfully explaining how such a screaming screen family could exist without sanctions.

Not that some fantastic fantasies aren't set in Jerusalem stone. "My mother freezes soup in big Tupperware," says De Pelegrí. "And while she never dropped a bowl of it on my father's head, maybe she fantasized once on doing it," she laughs.

Adds her husband, "We take a kernel of life" and exaggerate it.

And if Pop's corn explodes on screen, and Tania bellies up to her brother-in-law to be with a belly dance so unabashedly undulating that it would make Jewish Jell-O quiver, who's to say what normalcy is after all?

Not Rafi, the mussed-up Muslim from the other side of the ... treif.

Want to know the most mishuguh of the mishuguh? The Hararis are not crazed by their popularity; indeed, they're unhurried on their obvious race to fame. They're taking it easy, enjoying raising their young son together.

United they stand, divided ... well, they don't really divvy up the dynamics. And they surely don't separate their reel lives from real life.

"No," notes De Pelegrí, "we are a stable couple who believe in the harmony of the family," even if the screen Dalinskys dilly-dally on the edge of reason with no piece of harmony.

It all stands to reason; when it comes to the Hararis professionally, somehow chaos becomes them. They're tabling a sequel until later because they're already about to dish up their next project: "Eating Disorders: A Love Story."

Food for fought? "It's about how food can wreck a relationship," claims Harari.

"It's a romance." 

 

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