Rudo y Cursi

2009-09-17 15:06
Rudo y Cursi

What it's about:

Two brothers, Tato (Gael Garcia Bernal) and Beto (Diego Luna) working on a banana plantation in rural Mexico are recruited to rival teams in the major soccer league in Mexico City after a scrupulous talent scout Batuta (Guillermo Francella) spots them playing an amateur game in their village. While the brothers relish the opportunity to make it big in the city and leave the poverty of their simple rural life behind, their growing rivalry and extra-curricular interests begin to overshadow their professional careers and results in hilarious consequences for the misfits.

What we thought:

The fact that this film stars two of Mexico's brightest stars, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, should be more than enough to check Rudo y Cursi out, pronto. After seducing audiences with their reckless youth and beauty on the cult classic Y Tu Mama Tambien in 2001, the real-life best friends have carved out an alluring career path (Bernal more so than Luna, it must be said) that has seen them share the screen with A-listers (Babel, Milk), while maintaining the indie credibilty that marked them as more than mere flavour-of-the-month curiosities.

Rudo y Cursi also reunites the two stars with Oscar-nominated Y Tu Mama Tambien writer-director pair Carlos Cuarón and his older brother Alfonso (who also directed Children of Men, and the best Harry Potter adaptation yet – The Prisoner of Azkaban). The two doubtless bring their own history and familial relationship to the project.

Make no mistake, Rudo y Cursi is a comedy. The set up is a classic fish-out-of-water scenario: two village idiots who share a particular talent with a soccer ball are given the opportunity to make it big, but are surrounded by the trappings of fame and eventually do battle with their biggest rivals – their own egos.

Tato is nicknamed Curso ("corny") because of his love of cheesy pop music, while Beto is Rudo (or "rough") due to his attacking style of goalkeeping. Tato is the younger, less sensible sibling who sees his soccer career as a stepping stone to his true dream – to become a pop idol. So what does the manager of the latest sports celebrity do but indulge Tato his chance to record his first (and only) "hit" song – a Spanish country cover of Cheap Trick's "I Want You to Want Me", complete with a garish music video. The video itself is a riot of bad taste – because, clearly, "The Macarena" wasn’t purple or tacky enough – and supplies the most gloriously sustained belly laugh you're likely to enjoy in a movie theatre this year.

As a parody of pampered self-image and disposable celeb currency Rudo y Cursi works because it's so painfully familiar, and because the actors at its centre are clearly having the time of their lives playing the misguided mamas boys. Beto isn’t immune to the trappings of his new surroundings either, despite the fact that he has a wife and two young kids back home. Nursing a gambling problem well before he made it to the city, he soon becomes a high-roller, taking to the casinos like a child with a brand new toy.

There are some touching moments as well, as we see the brothers vie for their mother's affections, and struggle to deal with the downside of wealth, celebrity and relationships with supermodel girlfriends. But it's the rough charm and low-key intensity of this movie that sets it apart. The Cuaróns aren’t aiming for any grand life-lessons or affirmations. The film is so disinterested in contextualizing the brothers' journey as a cautionary tale that it succeeds in playing out as a lighter, more immersive experience for the viewer. And even of you can predict the final score early in the second half, there's no denying that the road to that fateful final whistle is just so, well, fun.

Mexican comedies probably sell as well as day-old enchiladas outside of their homeland, so take advantage of this opportunity to catch two special talents let loose in an enjoyable rags-to-riches tale.

Real-life BFFs Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna re-unite to play brothers who go up against each other when they are recruited to rival soccer teams in the major leagues.

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