It was 1967's To Sir With Love that brought the whole "school teacher as agent of change" into my Rolodex of film tropes. From Dead Poets Society and Dangerous Minds, to that sappy opus Mr. Holland created for his deaf son, these films offer up one comfort (that's me in high school!) while trafficking in a narrative born and bred from the idea that we all have the potential to succeed in this world, to be the best possible person we can be, while successfully navigating all those barriers that are hindrances to our happiness. It's a nifty bit of business, with most of the stories wrapping up as the emboldened students head out into the world, wide-eyed and optimistic, a two-hour reprieve to live that time again, and not think about the present, because Table 8 needs a coffee refill.
All of that is basically an excuse to not talk about No Manches Frida (the title roughly translates to WTF Frida), a broad and pandering comedy that sees star Omar Chaparro (desperately throwing these cinematic darts to get Hollywood's attention. See Compadres for homework) as a thief released from prison, who discovers that his long-lost loot, once buried in a school playground, is now under a recently built school gymnasium. That school is the Frida Kahlo High School (now the title makes sense!). He finagles his way into becoming a substitute teacher while drilling underground to his bounty at night. The film is a mess, wrangling every tired theme from those past films and offering exactly nothing new. Reprobate main character reformed? Check. Mousy schoolteacher finds her voice? Check. Unruly students positively motivated by scared-straight tactics and some tough love? Check. Stupid subplots involving various characters achieving a goal or alternatively becoming a punch line that ends up being a rather mean-spirited and thoughtless exercise hiding under the guise of a rousing crowd-pleaser? Check and check. No Manches Frida tries wildly to delight but goes nowhere. It is the cinematic equivalent to the cringeworthy class clown at the back of the room that everyone ignores. It's just embarrassing.
Copyright © 2019 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.