Lively DV-shot tale of an aspiring comicbook artist bound to honor the wishes of his father captures much of the spice and color of the largely Latino neighborhood just north of Harlem that lends pic its name. Believable characters trump the retread plot and hokey message. Contempo and strongly convincing ethnic slant makes cable life likely.
“The Jazz Singer”-like generational conflict casts Carlos (Manny Perez) as the son who disappoints his traditionalist immigrant dad (Tomas Milian) by wanting to draw cartoons rather than go into the family bodega biz. When a thief’s bullet incapacitates dad, Carlos must move back and take over the store, reopening old wounds and leading to a too-pat resolution. First-time feature helmer Alfredo de Villa has an eye for detail, such as the practiced way Carlos navigates the paraphernalia-strewn apartment he shares with his seamstress girlfriend (Andrea Navedo) or jealously guards his art supplies. De Villa and lenser Claudio Chea push DV’s color saturation to intensify the particular emotional tone of each locale. Acting is solid throughout, and Danny Hoch as the hero’s bowling-obsessed best friend steals the show in one of his patented not-as-dumb-as-he-looks sidekick turns. Production design by Charlotte Burke is expressive.