Theres a rambunctious, cluttered energy coursing through this directorial debut from screenwriter Carlos Cuaron (brother to the great Alfonso, who previously had a hand in penning the latters recent masterpieces Y Tu Mama Tambien and Children of Men). Given their family situation, sibling rivalry seems a natural subject, and at first this tale of two bickering, bonehead half-brothersplucked off a banana plantation and thrust into Mexico Citys fickle soccer scenethrobs with lewd promise.

Nicknamed Rudo (or tough), Diego Lunas hotheaded goalie is a brawler with a bad moustache and an unfortunate tendency to gamble while coked out of his gourd. Casting baby-faced Luna as a swaggering badass is your first indication of how seriously Cuaron is taking these characters. The bemused, askance view of Latin bravado recalls Y Tu Mamas droll reserve, as does the reunion of Luna with his Tambien co-star Gael Garcia Bernal, here boasting hilarious frosted tips and clueless puppy-dog charm.

Bernals called Cursi (meaning corny) and he cartoonishly views his success on the field as a mere stepping stone to a musical career. (Oh, if only there were a market for accordion-driven covers of Cheap Tricks I Want You To Want Me crooned by overly sincere men in rhinestone cowboy getups, Id probably never turn off the television.)

Narrated by the cheerfully amoral sports-agent hustler (comedian Guillermo Francella) who ushers these nitwit man-children into the big time, Rudo Y CursI attempts the aloof detachment that leant Tambiens sophomoric hijinks such devastating perspective, but Cuaron cant muster up the life-and-death stakes that gave his brothers picture its power. Such comparisons arent helped by cinematographer Adam Kimmels transparent attempts to ape Emmanuel Lubezskis verdant green color palatenot an act anyone should try to follow.

On the bright side, at least Cuaron keeps the soccer games entirely off-screen. (As a lifelong baseball fan, I realize that I have no right to call any sport boring. But seriously, people )

There are some awesomely tacky details lurking around the margins. Cuaron cant ever quite overcome the been-there, done-that feeling that sinks his rags-to-riches-to-rags cautionary tale. Every scene in Rudo Y Cursi goes exactly where you already guessed it would, at least 10 minutes before finally getting there. The air of jaunty vivaciousness is promising, but nothing sticks. C+


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