Sunday, May 10, 2009

Rudo Y Cursi

Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna are sort of a modern Mexican version of Laurel and Hardy. Working together again in a sibling rivalry soccer movie for the first time since they met in the seminal Y Tu Mama Tambien, the guys prove once again to be a formidable comic team. Never mind that neither of their collaborations are true comedies. What makes both films work (although I'm hesitant to lump the movies together because Y Tu Mama is in a class far above this one) is the subtle humor that underscores the tense drama.

The tough, tense stuff simply wouldn't work if Bernal and Luna weren't as good as they are at playing off of one another's comic cues to set up scores of humiliating gags. The actors' chemistry lifts what might have been an average sports melodrama to something near special.

Bernal is Tato, an easygoing striker who fashions himself a night club singer, while Bernal is Tato's high-strung brother Beto, a mustachioed goalie who resents the success of anyone around him, especially Tato. Early on a scout happens by the brothers on a southern Mexico soccer pitch and tells them he can take only one of them with him to a pro tryout up north. It's a testament to Beto (nicknamed Rudo for his rudeness) is willing to wage his future on a single penalty shot, given the inherent advantage of the shooter in the situation. Beto tries to tell his suggestion-prone brother to kick it to the right so he can block it, but the brothers cross signals, Tato scores the goal, and he's on to the big leagues.

It's when Tato rises to fame, earning the nickname Cursi for his flowery, elegant play, that the movie takes on its true spirit, reminding me of the joyous, nobodies-make-good in the early episodes of Entourage. He eventually pulls Beto into the fold, and the brothers wind up living together in an overpriced house, playing for rival squads that you just know will end up meeting in the climactic scene with everything on the line.

The first two thirds of the film are spectacular but the ending is disgustingly contrived - just too cute and telescoped - and leaves you with a sour taste in your mouth. But there are enough thrills and laughs here to justify the price of admission.

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