Dir: Carlos Cuaron. Mexico. 2008. 103 mins.
Already an enormous box office hit in Mexico, Rudo Y Cursi is a predictable rags-to-riches saga elevated by the delightful star pairing of Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, real-life friends and business partners who haven’t appeared on screen together since Alfonso Cuaron’s Y Tu Mama Tambien in 2001. Directed by Alfonso’s brother Carlos and the first film produced by Cha Cha Cha, the film- making troika of Alfonso, Guillermo Del Toro and Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, this crowd-pleaser is bound to be one of the year’s more successful foreign-language titles, if not necessarily a critical slamdunk.
It’s hard to resist the chemistry between Bernal and Luna, nor their individual charisma. Playing dim country brothers falling into all the traps of sudden fame after they are recruited to become professional football players in Mexico City, their enjoyment is infectious. The film itself is ultimately a pedestrian sports story which is more fast-paced comedy than a character piece like Y Tu Mama. And every step of the story is predictable right down to the final penalty showdown between the two.
“It’s hard to resist the chemistry between Bernal and Luna, nor their individual charisma”
For Universal, Rudi Y Cursi represents a powerful start for the deal it struck last year to finance Cha Cha Cha’s first five films. A local blockbuster, it also has significant international appeal and was sold just before its international premiere at Sundance to Sony Pictures Classics in the US.
Beto (Luna) and Tato (Bernal) Verdusco are brothers who work on a banana ranch. Tato has ambitions to be a famous singer, even while his singing leaves a lot to be desired, while Beto comes alive on the football field as a ferocious goalkeeper with the nickname Rudo (‘Tough’). One day on the walk to their regular football game, they come across a soccer talent scout named Batuta (top Argentinian comic Francella) whom they help with a flat tire. He stays to watch the game and, much to Beto’s consternation, picks Tato to move to Mexico City and play for the Amaranto team. Tato becomes a star and his elegant playing style earns him the nickname Cursi (‘Corny’).
On the insistence of Tato, Batuta later brings Beto to the city and gets him the goalie position at the Nopaleros team. The two become celebrities, move into a fancy house and Tato starts dating a sexy TV star. But both of them fall prey to the pitfalls of stardom.
Shot by Adam Kimmel (Capote, Lars And The Real Girl), Rudo Y Cursi is colourful and handsomely mounted, sparing no expense in staging stadium-packed football matches or faux music videos (Bernal’s interpretation of I Want You To Want Me in Spanish is hilarious). Francella Batuta is a perfect third wheel to the two young actors as the highly corruptible manager and Carlos Cuaron keeps it all moving with a brisk pace which will please sports fans who wouldn’t normally see a foreign language film.
Cha Cha Cha
Sony Pictures Classics
Focus Features International
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Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Guillermo Del Toro
Felipe Perez Santiago
Gael Garcia Bernal