The Real Cancun Movie Review
That's not a prude's complaint about how nubile college-age folks getting wasted in Mexico is degrading, insulting, or a sign of our moral decline. A well-made film about what happens on Spring Break would be a wonderful thing; it might tell us something about how people's personalities transform in a world without moral tethers, which is the stuff of good documentaries. Robert Flaherty went to the Arctic and made the great Nanook of the North, and if somebody went to Cancun and made Nookie of the South, I'd be all for it. Heck, give it some high-minded title - American Ritual, say - and even the Film Comment crowd would happily climb aboard.
But Cancun is hard to trust as documentary - it's too judiciously edited. It's worse as a film in general - it has no story to tell. Conceived by Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray, creators of The Real World and Road Rules, Cancun sticks to their reality TV template. Sixteen people - half male, half female - are placed in a beachfront house and filmed as they spend a week amongst the hordes of partying kids sucking down tequila shots and exploring each others' tongues. The assembled cast comprises the standard array of youngsters with personalities in progress: Casey the surfer-dude model, Jeremy the buff stud, Sara the giggly college girl, and Alan the never-had-a-drink farm-town boy.
It's Alan who raises a red flag. After hammering home multiple times that he's never had a drink in his life, his housemates try to sell him on the joys of drinking (as Cancun would have it, hangovers don't exist and aren't anything a dolphin ride couldn't cure anyway). After some nervous handwringing on Alan's part - he's never had a drink in his life! -- he finally downs a tequila shot to raucous cheers.
Five seconds later, he hollers: "I wanna see some titties!"
Now, it may very well be that there are folks who, after a tequila shot or two, turn from William F. Buckley to Al Bundy. And without saying that the "real" Cancun is in fact acted, Alan does seem to perform honestly as the wasted dude who's now the life of the party. But it does reveal Cancun as too engineered and gamed to be entertaining as a reality feature, or as a movie in general. The Real World works - when it does - because we get to spend weeks with the characters and get to know their tics. In the space of two hours, it's hard to differentiate between 16 different folks, so Cancun is edited to take the form of a teen exploitation film. You know how those work: There's some good times, some bad times, a few bare breasts, some sex, and at the end there's a big concert, the nerd gets a cute girl, and everybody has had A Meaningful Experience. If there was a Dean of Cancun College around, Cancun's filmmakers surely would've found a way to pull a prank on him involving farm animals.
But without a script, Cancun comes up empty. Though there are some attempts to show some romantic tension, it never really feels tense: Everybody's half-drunk, after all, and they know they won't be seeing each other after the week's over. The most engaging relationship is between Sky - who, bless her, knows she's "the token black girl" - and equally token black guy Paul. Their conversations have some genuine humor and hint at the dynamics of a real budding romance. But once it's clear that both aren't meant for each other - and that there's nothing really at stake - Cancun lumbers to its beautifully-lighted close.
Yes, yes, there are ample party scenes, and Cancun will satisfy the needs of anybody eager to see bikini-clad women spray whipped cream on each other and grind against each other in slo-mo. (Because at normal speed, they'd just look wasted.) But at heart Cancun is just a rush job - it was filmed barely a month before its release. In that regard, it's impressive that the filmmakers came up with something resembling a narrative at all. It's chief accomplishment, however, is displaying how a couple of movie producers can engage in a shrewd and cynical act of profit-taking. At least somebody had A Meaningful Experience.
Looking for an insightful commentary track? Cancun's DVD can't help you there, but it does have a half hour of "insights" from its brain-dead cast, ten minutes of deleted scenes (including wet t-shirt outtakes!), and scenes from The Real Cancun's theatrical premiere. Here, you can see how the film's stars act in real life! Er, wait a minute...
Does this newspaper make me look fat?