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Rudo y Cursi Print E-mail
Monday, 11 May 2009
ImageBefore I dive in to what is mostly criticism, let me say that Diego Luna and Gabriel García Bernal are skilled, charismatic and have serious onscreen chemistry.   With any two other actors, this film may have been an unbearable mess, but these guys are so fun to watch it almost doesn’t matter what goes on around them.  I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy a movie in which they stood outside Subway trying to decide which five dollar foot-long subs to order.  Still, this flick was no Y Tu Mamá También, so on to the review:

Two siblings, both blessed with natural talent in the same sport, work on a farm in the small town they grew up in.   When a morally questionable pro scout appears to offer them tickets to the big show, their rivalry is ignited both on and off the field and their lives are changed forever.  Sound like the plot to A League of Their Own?  It is.  It’s also the plot to Rudo y Cursi, which, oddly enough, is a male Mexican mediocre version of the chick baseball movie with the Madonna theme song whose most lasting cultural impact was the line, “There’s no crying in baseball.”
Rudy y Cursi tells the story of two brothers, Beto (Luna) and Tato (Bernal) who are plucked from poverty to play professional soccer (fútbol, as the rest of the world calls it).  Nicknamed Rudo and Cursi respectively, the title translates roughly to Crude and Corny, or possibly Tough and Wimpy, as one Spanish-speaking friend suggested to me.  I thought perhaps these two opposing characteristics would play important roles in the film (as in Sense and Sensibility), but they don’t really.  If the filmmakers were attempting such a metaphor, they either failed or something was lost in the translation to subtitles.  

Much is made of the rivalry between Tato and Beto, which is theoretically the focus of the film.  But aside from a key moment at the beginning of the film, there doesn’t seem to be much at all to the conflict.   These are brothers who genuinely love each other and want the other to succeed.  They fight, but only like brothers are expected to, and they desire different things in life.  The only goal they share is to be the first to build their mother a house on the beach.  Neither one of them even cares that much about soccer.  (Attn Soccer Fans:  There is very little actual soccer in this movie.  If you were hoping for players racing down the field, diving for balls, offense, defense, etc, maybe re-rent Bend It Like Beckham.)  If both brothers wanted the same job, or the same girl or if their mother favored one or the other or her love was up for grabs, the rivalry might be riveting.  It is, instead, mundane.

With not much of a rivalry to speak of, it would be nice if the individual goals of the two brothers gave us something to invest in. Unfortunately, Tato wants to be a singer and Beto is only interested in gambling.  These are tough for an audience to get behind when the singer can’t sing and the gambler loses his wife’s blender at the beginning of the film.  We might root for Beto to overcome his gambling problem, but that doesn’t seem to be the remotest possibility. There was nothing in Rudo y Cursi except for the charm of the two lead actors to make me care about what might happen next.

(An aside:  Dear Moviemakers, please put the incurable gambler character/storyline to rest.  Annoying and predictable, it is always the same and only brings movies down.  I know it is an easy way to add conflict to your story, but until you can find a new twist on it, for the love of good celluloid, leave it alone.  Thank you.  Sincerely, Someone Who Likes Movies)

Judging from his directorial debut, Carlos Cuarón appears to be Alfonso’s less talented little brother.  His writing, which sparkled in Y Tu Mamá También, has dimmed.  Although the dialogue is still fresh and believable, allowing Luna and Bernal to shine again, the plot is predictable and the characters much thinner than I’d expected.  I am hesitant to use the term ‘one-dimensional’, but it is not far from accurate.  If you’ve been dying to see these two guys reunite on screen, go see this movie.  You’ll enjoy them.   But go prepared to see two great actors in a second-rate film.  Personally, I’m waiting for the Subway thing.  I’m betting Bernal goes Spicy Italian and Luna as the Sweet Onion Teriyaki.

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