Rudo y Cursi is a new Spanish-language film written and directed by Carlos Cuarón (co-writer of 2001's brilliant Y tu mamá también) in his feature debut. Carlos is the brother of the great director Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu mamá and Children of Men), and he produces Rudo y Cursi with his fellow prominent Mexican filmmakers, Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu.
The film is also the big-screen reunion of actors Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, the young men who set the screen on fire with Y tu mamá and have since had fine careers apart from each other.
With a pedigree that lousy with talent, one might think that Rudo y Cursi would be the most staggeringly brilliant movie of the year. It's not, so lower your expectations at will. But the movie is tons of fun, well-acted and made, with a story that's highly consumable even if it doesn't tilt the earth on its axis.
Beto (Luna) and Tato (Bernal) are brothers in rural Mexico. They work the banana plantation during the week and dominate the local dirtpatch soccer field on weekends. Beto, married with a child, can't give up his childhood dream of playing professional soccer. Tato, single, has athletic talent but really wants to be a singer.
After a chance encounter with a talent scout, Batuta (Guillermo Francella), the brothers' dreams are suddenly in reach. But he can only take one of them to the pros. From this grain of conflict, Beto and Tato set out on a course of antagonism writ large across the high-profile panoply of Mexican professional soccer.
Curiously, there's a minute amount of soccer on screen in Rudo y Cursi. The film isn't about the sport so much as it is about its effect on the characters. Like another recent film, Sugar, Rudo y Cursi kicks most sports-film tropes to the curb.
Batuta narrates, bestowing upon the film a world-wise, charming universality. "Wars are mistaken for games and games for wars," Batuta says. And: "Love for a mother and a uniform are the same."
I'm no fan of soccer, but when the sport finally does make an appearance late in the film, I was compelled to suspend my disbelief. Rudo y Cursi's climax is as entertaining as any American athletic event I've watched recently. And then you trot out of the theater humming a Hispanicized "I Want You To Want Me," and things are right with the world.
Rudo y Cursi
Opens Friday, June 12th