Film Reviews

Rudo Y Cursi is Not the Kind of Sports Movie Where Everyone Wins

Not quite The Further Adventures of Cain & Abel, the second coming of Beavis & Butt-Head, King Kong vs. Godzilla Redux, or Peyton Meets Eli, but energetic fun nonetheless, Rudo y Cursi is a multiple brother act: It's written and directed by Carlos Cuarón and produced by elder sibling Alfonso, director of Y Tu Mamá También, which Carlos co-wrote, and reunites Mamá's co-stars (and childhood friends) Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, playing half-brothers to boffo effect.

Nearly as popular on its home territory as the first Cuarón hit, Rudo y Cursi is a similarly manic, if less psychologically fraught, exercise in male-bonding and fraternal rivalry — rooted in a road trip that the Cuarón brothers took in their 20s. It's also an inspirational sports story with a distinctively acrid twist. The self-deprecating attitude toward their homeland is apparent from the onset — a montage of rustic, rundown, empty soccer fields, followed by Cursi (Bernal) schlepping bananas at the rustic, rundown plantation, someplace in backwoods Jalisco, where his half-brother, Rudo (Luna), works as the assistant to the assistant foreman.

They're a ripe pair of bumpkins. Rudo, whose sobriquet means "tough," is irascible and inarticulate; Cursi, dubbed "corny," is expansive and voluble. Each, however, is a potential soccer star — or so we're told by the good-natured little hustler, Batuta (Guillermo Francella), who, in discovering the brothers and providing the movie's voiceover narration, more or less conducts the action.

Rudo y Cursi is as fatalistic as any film noir, but it's played for cartoonish screwball comedy. At once smooth and frantic, filled with cozy clutter and vulgar jive, the movie subsumes its moralizing in frat-house entertainment. What justice can you expect from a world where a man turns on the TV and learns that he's been dumped by his fiancée, or a death threat is followed by the request for an autograph? At the height of their joint triumph, the brothers return home — their half-sister is marrying the local druglord —and compete over who will buy their mother a house on Chololo beach.

Despite an undercurrent of violence, Rudo y Cursi eludes the tragic ending that seems to be its destiny.

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J. Hoberman
Contact: J. Hoberman