THE REAL CANCUN, directed by Rick De Oliveira, 89 minutes, rated R.
Well, here’s some welcome news. Finally, right at your local cineplex, there’s a promising second option to hormone replacement therapy. It’s called “The Real Cancun,” and while the procedure it offers is invasive, watching it nevertheless jump-starts the pituitary.
The film, a brainchild of Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray (the team behind MTV’s “The Real World” and “Road Rules”), is cinema’s first reality-based movie, an unscripted, bawdy excursion into the heady lives of 16 young adults – eight men and eight women – all of whom agreed to be filmed while cavorting on the beaches and in the bedrooms of Cancun, Mexico, over the recent March spring break.
For their trouble, they were paid $1,000 each and all the free booze they could drink, which, by the time they slurped their last body shot, downed their last funnel of tequila and chugged their last bottle of brew, suggests their paydays were actually closer to mid-six figures.
As the film opens, we’re introduced to the pre-tox versions of all these kids, an enthusiastic, fresh-faced lot who make no bones about it – they want their 15 minutes of fame and they’re willing to do anything to get it.
Not everybody here has the moxie to leave their mark onscreen, but those who do include identical twins Nicole and Roxanne, a wild duo with a wilder bisexual vibe who enjoy getting naked and hooking up with strangers; Casey, a 25-year-old model from South Beach who sucks in his cheeks and strikes poses at will; Xavier and Sky, who have a torrid love affair, an ugly breakup and a torrid love affair, all within a matter of days; and Alan, a shy, introspective Texas teen whose favorite drink is a virgin daiquiri.
Since Alan is the film’s center – he claims he has never consumed alcohol and doesn’t plan to do so in Cancun – it’s his resolve and his morality that are being tested here. That proves especially true early on, when Matt, a rich, self-described mama’s boy, suggests that Alan should loosen up and drink:
Matt: “Dude, you need a drink.”
Alan: “I feel like I don’t have to drink.”
Matt: “You mean, like – ever?”
Sure, these kids are as deep as a Dixie Chick and the dialogue redefines what it means to be morbidly banal, but if you’re in the right frame of mind, that’s exactly what makes “The Real Cancun” such a curiously entertaining spectacle.
Unlike the latest television reality show, “Mr. Personality,” a pretentious bomb that blew it by not featuring Monica Lewinsky in a wrinkled blue dress on opening night, the makers of “Cancun” do have a sense of humor. They know their audience and they deliver the sort of uncensored goods they expect.
Likeminded teens and twentysomethings will find the movie one part potboiler, two parts sex comedy and three parts community service, a film that delivers drama, laughs and even helpful advice, particularly to anyone who has ever considered the ramifications of taking part in a wet T-shirt contest without the T-shirt, or perhaps being paddled on stage in front of thousands of cheering onlookers.
Shrewdly, the movie recommends neither.
For the rest of us, “The Real Cancun” offers a measure of insight into the current mating scene. Yes, a good deal of the movie’s booty-shaking shenanigans are elevated for the cameras, but between the cracks, so to speak, are moments of truth, such as when Alan succumbs to peer pressure and takes that ruinous first drink, or when it dawns on shallow Laura that her homebound boyfriend will soon join the rest of the country in seeing her for the cheating lout she really is.
At times exhilarating, at times appalling, and often both, “The Real Cancun” is a celebration of youth and impulse.
It was stitched together in less than a month and the lack of quality shows, but it’s hard to dismiss a movie driven so relentlessly by the pursuit of sex, that it recognizes the only way for it to end is with a showstopping STD song. That number, performed by David for hottie-in-the-making Heidi, is lighthearted and fun, a hummable treat that lives up to its name and keeps on giving, as I’m sure a few of these kids are aware of by now.
Christopher Smith is the Bangor Daily News film critic. His reviews appear Mondays and Fridays in Style, occasionally on E! Entertainment’s E! News Daily, and are archived on RottenTomatoes.com. He can be reached at BDNFilm1@aol.com.
Renting a video or a DVD? NEWS film critic Christopher Smith can help. Below are his grades of recent releases in video stores. Those in bold print are new to video stores this week.
The Banger Sisters?B
Far From Heaven?A
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets?B+
Half Past Dead?F
Igby Goes Down?A
Jackass: The Movie?B
Lilo & Stitch?B+
Maid in Manhattan?B-
My Big Fat Greek Wedding?A-
One Hour Photo?A-
Rabbit Proof Fence?A-
Two Weeks Notice?C-