Review by Dustin Putman
2½ stars out of 4
"The Real Cancun," produced by Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray
of MTV's "The Real World" fame, purports to being "The First Spring
Break Reality Movie," which may be true. How real it is for sixteen
college-aged strangers to come together and rent out a luxurious beachside
hotel resort for a week is another story, but one suspects that everything
else that goes on is pretty close to what it is like for teens and
twentysomethings to let loose on a vacation. Considering how stressful
college is (and I should know; I'm currently enduring it), is it any
wonder why alcohol consumption is so prevalent within this age group?
This documentary film, which plays like a slightly naughtier and more
lewd 90-minute version of "The Real World," may be more at home on
a television screen once it goes to DVD, but it is admittedly a lot
of fun all the same. As mentioned, sixteen people from all different
parts of the U.S. were chosen from a reported 10,000 candidates to
let loose for a week together in Cancun, where the hard liquor flows
like wine, relationships are formed (and in some cases, then broken),
and everyone leaves on the seventh day with some great memories and
the certainty that their charades will be released to the big screen for all to witness.
As the end credits began to play, I was at first disappointed there
was no epilogue telling us what happened to these sixteen characters,
and then it hit me. "The Real Cancun" was shot in mid-March of this
year, and is now being released one month later. With the production-to-release
window possibly the shortest in motion picture history, it is amazing
director Rick de Oliveira and clearly overworked editors Eric Spagnoletti
and Dan Zimmerman were able to sort through over 100 hours of footage
in less than a month to put together a film that not only makes sense,
but actually features several satisfying narratives and a few authentic character arcs.
Alan, the movie's lead hero, is a virginal 18-year-old college freshman
who has never had a single drink of alcohol in his life. As he watches
his costars joyfully carouse around in skimpy outfits, Alan sits from
the outside looking in. By mid-week, he has not only gotten drunk,
asking after he does his first body shot, "I'm still the good boy,
right?," but has won the Hottest Male Body contest. Near the end,
Alan also begins a sweet-natured relationship with another vacationer.
Meanwhile, self-proclaimed "Token Black Girl" Sky is pursued by Paul,
who eventually tires of her hard-to-get routine and sleeps with someone
else. Sky feels betrayed, but is unsure exactly why. 18-year-old best
friends Heidi and David ward off questions about why they are not
a couple. Toward the end of the week, they are questioning the same
thing. All the while, aspiring model Casey goes around asking anyone--and
I mean anyone--if they will kiss or take a shower with him, but to
no avail. Casey may look good, but on a smoothness scale he rates at a big fat zero.
Zippily paced and filled with hip music, idyllic cinematography (the
helicopter shots of Cancun are awfully enticing), inconsequential
laughs, and even a few quiet, touching moments, "The Real Cancun"
is better than expected and never boring. Had more time been given
to post-production, however, some of the other cast members might
have been presented in a more developed fashion. Occasional leads
pop up that one swears they haven't even seen before, while too many
of the girls have blond hair and look exactly alike. The consequences
of nearly non-stop alcohol consumption are also washed over, with
nary a sea of vomit or a morning hangover anywhere in sight. Then
again, maybe they have just grown immune to the stuff.
"The Real Cancun" may not mean much in the end, but as Alan and the
others wave good-bye to their spring break and prepare to leave, viewers
may be left startled by how much they are going to miss some of the
people they have just met. A followup movie, where the same sixteen
have a reunion next year at a different spring break resort, sounds
like a rather appealing idea. Just don't tell some of the older, stuffier
critics I said any this, because they clearly wouldn't understand.
Copyright © 2003 Dustin Putman