Gael García Bernal as Tato
Diego Luna as Beto
Guillermo Francella as Batuta
Dolores Heredia as Elvira
Adriana Paz as Toña
Jessica Mas as Maya
Salvador Zerboni as Jorge W
Joaquín Cosio as Arnulfo
Alfredo Alfonso as Don Casimiro
Fermín Martínez as DT. Obdulio
Eduardo Von as DT. Bruno Lopéz
Jorge Zárate as Voz Bruno López
Axel Ricco as Mena
Harold Torres as Trompo Tovar
Gabino Rodríguez as Mafafo
Alexander Da Silva as Gringa Roldan
Armando Hernández as El Cienpiés
Jorge Mondragón as Porro
Enoc Leaño as Árbitro
José Carlos Rodríguez as DT. Merodio
Directed by Carlos Cuarón
While parts might feel a little too “insidery” to foreigners or non-soccer fans, Carlos Cuarón proves his mettle as a director with an amusing and entertaining look at how fame (and soccer) can destroy the bonds of brotherhood.
Tato and Beto Verdusco (Gael García Bernal, Diego Luna) are overly-competitive brothers from a small Mexican village whose soccer talents are discovered by a talent scout known as “The Baton” (Guillermo Francella). He brings them to Mexico City where they find themselves caught up in the politics of the sport, and as each brother’s career alternates between highs and lows, their rivalry builds to a final confrontation on the soccer pitch.
Carlos Cuarón’s directorial debut certainly has common elements to his Oscar-winning screenplay for his brother’s “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” most notably that it reunites Cuarón with the stars of that breakthrough movie. Both Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna have changed a lot in the interim years, having starred and produced a number of indie and arthouse movies, so one might wonder if they can get back to their roots in playing two country bumpkins who make it big. Certainly, the trials and tribulations that come with fame and not meeting expectations of that fame might be something both actors might be intimately familiar, but it’s certainly interesting seeing it in such a different context.
We meet the brothers as they’re working on their family’s banana plantation, playing amateur soccer on the weekends. They’re very different, Tato being a cheerful dimwit who wants to be a singer, and Beto, known around the village as “Rudo” (tough) for his fiery temper, as he tries to support his wife and baby despite his gambling problems. Along comes a wealthy Argentine talent scout, known as Batuta (“The Baton”), who pits the brothers against each other in a penalty kick to see which one he’ll take back with him to Mexico City for soccer try-outs. Tato wins due to a bit of brotherly miscommunication, and Beto is left in the village to stew while his brother goes off to become famous. Tato learns that it’s a lot harder to break into the world of professional soccer as he is mostly left on the bench, but when he finally has his chance to play, word gets around about his skills as a striker. He uses this newfound fame to get a record deal and start dating sexy game show hostess Maya Vega, who would never give him the time of day before. (As we’ll learn later, she’s kind of a sports groupie.) Beto’s success happens quicker than Tato’s when he makes a name for himself as an unstoppable goalie, and the legend of the brothers spreads quickly.
Unlike the “Goal” series, “Rudo y Cursi” isn’t strictly a movie about soccer, as much as it’s a character dramedy set within that world. The story of Rudo and Cursi (loosely translated as “corny”) is mostly told through the media, whether it’s the sportscasters or the gossip shows, as everyone in the country follows the brothers’ rise through the ranks. It certainly won’t hurt to have some enjoyment or familiarity with the sport but it’s not necessary. Similar to the way “Sugar” takes place in the world of baseball, you can learn more about the sport by watching how the brothers navigate through the system.
The movie is mostly driven by the joys of seeing Gael and Diego reunited, the chemistry the duo displayed in “Y Tu Mama” still being in full effect despite them playing against type. Cuarón works well with both actors to create very funny characters, the brothers’ antics allowing for many funny moments, including a music video that has to be seen to be believed. The film’s sense of humor certainly feels familiar offering a lot of entertainment value whenever the two brothers squabble over anything and everything.
Even so, you might find yourself being more drawn to what is essentially the film’s baddie, the catalyst for everything good and bad that happens to the brothers. In “Batuta,” Argentina’s Guillermo Francella creates a character you can’t help but love every time he appears on screen with a different model on his arm. A chronically manipulative opportunist, he uses his ability to fulfill dreams to play the brothers against each other, as well as enabling them when they start getting into trouble. It’s a great character for Francello, being such a central part of the story as he narrates the story with his pearls of wisdom, mostly cynical analogies between life and soccer. This use of narrative makes it apparent this is from the writer of “Y Tu Mama” as it’s clearly Cuarón’s voice sharing his own love for the sport, mirrored by the country’s fickle support for the brothers throughout their road to success.
The effects of fame and money on the brothers makes for rich storytelling, as Tato’s desire for a singing career gets in the way of his ability to perform on the field, while Beto’s fame feeds his existing gambling problem and it only gets worse when drugs come into play. It all leads to the inevitable conclusion with the brothers settling their differences with the entire nation watching.
The Bottom Line:
“Rudy y Cursi” might not be nearly as groundbreaking as the exploration of sexual taboos from “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” but it’s certainly another great insider’s view at Mexican society, ably proving Carlos Cuarón to be more than a capable filmmaker at tackling a very different subject matter in an equally entertaining fashion.