PHOTO BY PANTELION FILMS
Where is it playing?: Park
What's it rated?: R
What's it worth?: $8.00
Oscar Jaenada stars as Cantinflas, Mexico’s most beloved comedy film star, in a biopic that chronicles his rise to stardom.
Cantinflas, directed by Sebastian del Amo, focuses on one of Mexico’s most famous stars, Mario Moreno, who was called the Charlie Chaplin of Mexico. Moreno, better known as Cantinflas, had an expansive movie career, spanning from the ’30s to the ’80s, and was one of Mexico’s most beloved icons.
Born into poverty in the early 1900s, Moreno harbored dreams of becoming a boxer. But his comic personality led him to circus tent shows that eventually put him on the path to stardom. His character, Cantinflas, was a campesino, or peasant, who always managed to triumph over his adversaries—mostly characterizations of the corrupt upper class—through his wiles and trickery. He became famous for his fast-paced comedic style, talking his opponents in circles with his many double entendres and puns. Unfortunately for Cantinflas, most of his clever jokes and wordplay are lost in translation, making it difficult for American audiences to fully appreciate what Moreno’s off-brand, quirky humor has to offer.
However, Oscar Jaenada shines in the titular role of the Mexican actor. Gangly and awkward-looking, with a quick wit and wolfish grin, Jaenada effortlessly captures Moreno’s mannerisms and singsong pattern of talking. It’s a remarkable and very respectable homage to the comedian who helped shaped Mexican cinema.
The movie follows Moreno’s beginnings and personal life before his Golden Globe-winning performance in the 1956 movie Around the World in 80 Days. What was interesting was the contrast between big-budget Hollywood folk like Mike Todd and Moreno’s own down-to-earth sense of self. Todd (played by Michael Imperioli) is a smooth-talking former Broadway producer, out to make the “biggest movie that the world has ever seen.” While attempting to get more than 50 of Hollywood’s stars to appear in his movie for free, he gets wind of Moreno and tries to get him on board just days before a large press conference. The desperate Todd offers Moreno the small, slightly insulting role of a bumbling Apache chieftain. Moreno initially refuses, but with some coaxing on both sides from an aforementioned silent film star—supposedly a huge fan of Cantinflas—the script is rewritten to expand the role of the resourceful Passepartout, the valet of David Niven’s Phileas Fogg, which Moreno accepts.
It’s a heartfelt, humorous story, but it’s not perfect. The biggest issue with this film is the fact that half of the script is devoted to Todd and his struggle. By squashing two separate plotlines into one film, one story will inevitably suffer. And, as Cantinflas would say, “Ahí está el detalle,” or “There’s the rub.” The constant jump-shifts from Spanish to English, from the 1930s to the 1950s, and from Moreno to Todd, dilute the narrative of Cantinflas and his incredible story. It leaves the audience wishing there was more of Cantinflas in a movie about Cantinflas. (106 min.)
—Adriana Catanzarite; New Times intern