The Real Cancun

What can you say about a movie that hinges on a 19-year-old's conversion from professed non-drinker to body-shot-slurping party-boy? In the case of "The Real Cancun," you can say that the movie is unabashedly tasteless, wholly trashy -- and hugely entertaining, which should help viewers overcome any shame in seeing the film.

What can you say about a movie that hinges on a 19-year-old’s conversion from professed non-drinker to body-shot-slurping party-boy? A pic that climaxes with a montage of beneath-the-sheets humping and grinding, captured by infrared video cameras? A film that may be the only movie this year in which cast members talk so casually, and so graphically, about their sexual preferences? In the case of “The Real Cancun,” you can say that the movie is unabashedly tasteless, wholly trashy — and hugely entertaining, which should help most viewers overcome any shame they might feel at seeing the film.

Billing itself as “the first reality feature film” (apparently ignoring last year’s “Jackass the Movie”), pic is being rushed into theaters April 25, barely one month after the wrap of principal photography and ahead of Universal’s similar-themed spring break opus “The Quest,” due later this summer. Which should equate to healthy, pre-“Matrix Reloaded” profit margins for this youth-skewing, $8 million production.

It’s fitting that pic’s producers — Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray — should be among the first to ride the reality-movie wave, given that their decade-old MTV series, “The Real World,” has served as the uncredited template for nearly every reality-TV series that has followed.

As its title implies, “The Real Cancun” is yet another spinoff of that well-worn formula, with 16 “real” teens and twentysomethings “cast” to spend 10 days living together in a luxurious Cancun resort during the height of the spring break season.

The idea, of course, is for these hormonally charged youths to get as down and dirty as possible — to get drunker than they’ve ever gotten, to party wilder than ever before and to engage in gluttonous amounts of casual sex. After all, the filmmakers seem to be saying with a reassuring wink and nod: That is what we’ve come to see, isn’t it?

This is a long way from the old beach party movies. Any random scene from “The Real Cancun”– in which the liquor and sex flow as fast and freely as the cast’s slurred speech — could easily shock Frankie and Annette (to say nothing of the parents of “Cancun’s” participants). And it’s hardly an exaggeration to say that pic often resembles a feature-length advertisement for the condom and tequila industries.

At the same time, there’s a sort of refreshing naivete to “The Real Cancun,” a willingness to stand up and say, “This is how red-blooded American kids get their kicks!”

“The Real Cancun” bears the Bunim-Murray imprimatur as conspicuously as a Jerry Bruckheimer action spectacle bears his. Pic was directed by vet “Real World” helmer Rick De Oliveira with his signature, live-television agility and was designed by Kelly Van Patter with all the neon-colored, art-moderne gaud that loyal “Real World” viewers have come to expect.

But as in their long-running television franchises, it’s the casting by longtime “Real World” and “Road Rules” casting director Sasha Alpert that’s the key to “Cancun’s” success.

The casting team led by Alpert (who’s the wife of Daily Variety chief film critic Todd McCarthy) has again put together a group of camera-ready strangers — from the preening, buffed-to-perfection Jeremy (who humbly professes that “girls go on spring break to find guys like me”) to the jobless, aspiring model Casey (who resembles Brendan Fraser’s Cro-Magnon “Encino Man”) — who are bound to delight us at the same time they embarrass themselves.

And “Cancun” is very, very funny. Evidently realizing that the duration of a feature film would be hardly sufficient enough to build up the soap-opera intrigue and high melodrama of a full TV season — it’s sometimes difficult to even keep track of all the characters — the filmmakers have incorporated an element of self-parody here that has been largely missing from the MTV series. (The MTV name is nowhere to be found on this production.)

They feel free to laugh at their drunken, carefree subjects and even, occasionally, at the sheer absurdity of making a film about raucous Spring Break hooligans.

Yet, if “Cancun” has a breakout star, it has to be 19-year-old Texan Alan Taylor — a babe-in-the-woods if there ever was one, who comes to Cancun never having consumed a drop of alcohol and only vaguely hopeful that he might get to “see some boobies.” His odyssey of iniquity — from shy, bespectacled bookworm to “spring break legend” –is the driving engine that makes pic’s 90 or so on-screen minutes particularly breezy.

As a testament to pic’s frantic post-production schedule, no actual print was ready to be press-screened a mere week before pic’s release, with a high-resolution computer output substituted instead. Still, image and sound quality were quite acceptable (to whatever extent pic’s core audience will even care about such matters).

The Real Cancun

  • Production: A New Line Cinema release of a Bunim-Murray/FilmEngine production. Produced by Mary-Ellis Bunim, Jonathan Murray. Executive producers, Richard Brener, Toby Emmerich, Matt Moore, A.J. Dix, Anthony Rhulen, Bill Shively. Co-producers, Rick De Oliveira, Jamie Schutz. Directed by Rick De Oliveira. Supervising story editor, Eric Monsky.
  • Crew: Camera (Deluxe color, HD-to-35mm), John Gumina; supervising film editor, Ben Salter; editors, James Gavin Bedford, Joe Shugart, Eric Spagnoletti, Dave Stanke, Daniel Zimmerman; music, Michael Stuby; music supervisor, Dave Stone; production designer, Kelly Van Patter; art director, Jorge A. Lara Sanchez; sound (Dolby Digital/DTS Stereo), Jeff Santoro; casting, Sasha Alpert. Reviewed at New Line screening room, L.A., April 18, 2003. MPAA Rating: R. Running time: 96 MIN.
  • With: <B>With:</B> Benjamin "Fletch" Fletcher, Nicole Frilot, Roxanne Frilot, Brittany Brown-Hart, David Ingber, Jeremy Jazwinski, Amber Madison, Paul Malbry, Marquita "Sky" Marshall, Laura Ramsey, Matthew Slenske, Alan Taylor, Heidi Vance, Casey Weeks, Sarah Wilkins, Chris Desanti, Jason Karlinski, Snoop Dogg, Simple Plan, Hot Action Cop.