The Real Cancun
Directed by Rick De Oliveira. (2003, R, 97 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., April 25, 2003
New Line wins the race to become the first company to transfer the TV reality-show craze to the movie theatres. Rest assured, there are plenty of these projects in the works (New Line has already beat Universal's former plan to release its similarly themed Spring Break: The Movie in April and forced Universal to push its reality pop to later in 2003), and all eyes will be on The Real Cancun to see if this new format of storytelling will be as lucrative for the film companies as it is for the TV studios. Nothing to dole out for scriptwriters or star salaries, no sets to build, no agents, dressing rooms, or moody cinematographers to deal with: From a producer's perspective, what's not to like? Whether that sentiment jibes with audiences may turn out to be another reality entirely. The basic question is this: Will people pay to come out to movie theatres for what they can get in their living rooms for free? It'll be a while before we get a definitive answer on that, but on the basis of The Real Cancun, the answer is most probably no. Shoddy craftsmanship and uninteresting subjects (it's amazing how tedious some conversations can be when there's no one to put words in the subjects' mouths) sink this spring-break movie faster than an outbreak of Leginnaires’ disease on a vacation cruise liner. Even a dully rote performance of one brief number by notorious party animal Snoop Dogg can't float this boat. Made by much of the same production gang that was behind MTV's breakthrough reality show The Real World, the filmmakers have forgotten some of that show's cardinal rules: 1) Get interesting character "types" whose presence "pops" on the screen, and 2) Hand-held digital videography can look great on TV, but when transferred to the big screen the same images can look underlighted, slipshod, and unfocused. New Line has bragging rights in that a movie they shot over 10 days in March 2003 was in theatres only a month later. But, judging by the results, their speed is nothing to write home about. If anything, the speed with which this movie was made reveals a cynical lack of attention to detail and craft, as if the filmmakers believe that audiences are willing to suck up whatever crap is fed them. The Real Cancun takes 16 twentysomethings on an expenses-paid spring vacation in Cancun and expects the "kids gone wild" atmosphere and generous amounts of alcohol to create movie magic. They go to clubs with names like Coco Bongo, engage in wet T-shirt contests, bungee jump, horseback ride, and swim with dolphins. Predictably, a few pair up, and the virgin teetotaler from Lubbock, Texas, gets a vacation he will never forget. But the film's promises of showing all the sexual activity that they can't show on TV is misleading. Breasts and butts are indeed bared, but the sex scenes are nothing more than undercover headboard-banging outlines and such. The 16 subjects share highly unequal screen time, as the film's editors (the real scriptwriters on these reality programs - but that's a whole other story) whittle the cast down to the most photogenic(?), interesting(?), and likable(?) of the group. Ultimately, the only thing real about The Real Cancun is that four-letter word in its title.