"Almodóvaresque" would be the easiest way to describe Queens, a wild Iberian romp which focuses on three male gay couples trying to get married and the problems wrought in their plans by their respective mothers. These formidable damas, played by some of Spain's most renowned actresses, include judge Helena (Mercedes Sampietro), famed actress Reyes (Marisa Paredes) and hotelier Magda (Carmen Maura), each too wrapped up in their powerful careers to pay much mind to their sons. Then there's Nuria (Verónica Forqué), a near-nympho who beds her future son-in-law, and Ofelia (Bertiana Blum), more obsessed with her rambunctious dog than her own child. Their lives all blend together in a zesty paella that, while straining credibility at times, offers some appealing scenes of quiet reflection, as well as a refreshing celebration of the ineffable allure and power of being middle-aged--something practically unheard of in American cinema these days.

Writer-director Manuel Gómez Pereira fully celebrates Spain's 2005 legalization of gay marriage and, indeed, paints a shiny, brightly colored and chic picture of that country which makes it appear something of a paradise on Earth. He fractures his frantic exposition with a lot of unnecessary flashbacks, which can seem just as contrived as those his master Almodóvar adores, but, thankfully, he slows things down to celebrate certain lovely moments in life, like a drunken garden party attended by Reyes, utterly disconcerted by the fact that her son is marrying the son of her gardener (appealingly played by Lluís Homar, who resembles Kelsey Grammer), for whom she nurses a burgeoning attraction. Statuesque Paredes comes across as the strongest of the ladies, as she has been given the best lines and most human character development. At one point, the gardener, unnerved by his first social encounter with his employer, asks her permission to roll a joint. "Of course," she replies, "I've worked with Almodóvar!" (Later, she is mistaken for Carmen Maura.)

The fact that the boys aren't as vivid as their mothers, at times even seeming handsomely interchangeable in their varyingly earnest/distraught conditions, is a weakness here, but the film's high spirits and good heart redeem a lot. Queens is far from great, but much better than the critical drubbing it has received would lead you to believe, and certainly a pleasant way to pass the time.