Vamanos muchachos! The Cuarón brothers ride into town again, but for once Alfonso is riding shotgun as producer.
This time screenwriter Carlos (best known for their sweary, sexy Mexican hit Y Tu Mamá También) is helming a riotous, rough-edged tragi-comic tamale of a movie, in which football takes the place of fucking.
Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna are also happily reunited here as soccer-mad brothers Tato and Beto, plucked from banana plantation poverty by a crafty club scout.
When striker Tato finds professional stardom in Mexico City as the stylishly corny ‘Cursi’, their fierce sibling rivalry propels bullish goalie Beto to abandon his family and graft his way to the top of a rival team as the no-holds-barred toughie ‘Rudo’. But as Beto’s spiralling gambling addiction threatens to end their rags-to-riches ride, will brotherly love trump team spirit?
Rudo Y Cursi is a gamey, enjoyably brassy movie, unapologetic about its broad humour, predictable plot-trajectory and sprawling ambition. For a first-timer, Cuarón’s direction is perfectly acceptable – yet the film’s mixture of coarsely comic parable and sly social commentary doesn’t quite gel with the ease that enabled Y Tu Mamá También to simultaneously satirise and humanise Mexican machismo.
His decision to keep the soccer action offscreen to concentrate on the human dramas similarly backfires, leaving the viewer feeling somewhat short-changed (especially when most of Mexico is shown glued to a tense derby match and we mostly just see the ball thudding into the onion bag).
This gets forgiven, if not forgotten, whenever Bernal and Luna strike vibrant, squabbling sparks off one another on-screen (Bernal, caterwauling through Tato’s cheesy spin-off music video, is insanely endearing). But it’s not enough to propel this hectic, likeable movie into the premier league.
Cuarón’s spirited footie fable is a game of two halves, buzzing with balls, bimbos and black comedy, but ultimately unable to bring home the trophy. Bernal gets man of the match, no contest.