Leon Ichaso's El Cantante, a frenzied and paper-thin attempt to lionize beloved salsa singer Hector Lavoe (played by Marc Anthony), convinced me it's time to put the musical-biopic genre on the shelf for a few years.
Cantante draws inspiration from a revealing 2002 television interview given by Lavoe's wife, Puchi (Jennifer Lopez, Anthony's wife in real life), during which the furious and confrontational spouse of the late Latin singer recounts the couple's highs and lows. Signed to burgeoning Fania Records, Lavoe sold out Madison Square Garden in his prime. But decadence's usual suspects march through Lavoe's life, and the talented crooner contends with drug addiction, failed affairs with loose women, a broken family life, and an HIV-positive diagnosis.
Chalk Anthony and Lopez up as the next off-screen couple unable to bring a modicum of chemistry to an on-screen pairing. Perhaps the problem lies with Lopez, who was infamously linked to Ben Affleck when the two worked on back-to-back disasters Gigli and Jersey Girl. Though she is capably antagonistic as the oft-scorned Puchi, Lopez's mate makes the same face in every scene and can not find the tragedy in his character's doomed fate. Anthony missed his calling as a Miami Vice villain. Such a diminished and one-note role suits him much better than the multi-tiered part of Lavoe.
These two could be Bogart and Bacall, and still the movie would falter under the hackneyed direction of Ichaso. His erratic visual style turns me off -- a flurry of blurs, fades, and chops that the director mistakenly believes are artistic.
The musical biopic isn't dead, just tired. Thanks to Jamie Foxx, it was possible for novice Ray Charles listeners to enjoy Ray. And you didn't have to love the music of Johnny Cash to connect with the improbable romance at the heart of Walk the Line. But without the driving beat of Lavoe's salsa music, El Cantante would bring nothing new to the table. Fans of Lavoe's upbeat music should spend their money on one of the artist's records, and let this ill-conceived movie fade from memory as quickly as possible.
When are the Dreamgirls coming on?
Run time: 106 mins
In Theaters: Friday 3rd August 2007
Box Office USA: $7.5M
Distributed by: Picturehouse
Production compaines: R-Caro Productions, Nuyorican Productions
Contactmusic.com: 1 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 25%
Fresh: 26 Rotten: 80
IMDB: 5.3 / 10
Director: Leon Ichaso
Screenwriter: David Darmstaedter, Todd Antony Bello, Leon Ichaso
Starring: Marc Anthony as Hector Lavoe, Jennifer Lopez as Puchi, John Ortiz as Willie Colon, Manny Pérez as Eddie, Vincent Laresca as Ralph, Federico Castelluccio as Jerry Masucci, Nelson Vasquez as Johnny Pacheco, Antone Pagan as Papo, Romi Dias as Priscilla, Andrea Navedo as Zaida
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