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Fado Blues

Portuguese helmer Luis Galvao Teles has come up with the anticlimactic "Fado Blues" -- a very loose, very local caper comedy that a slight breeze could blow away. This pleasant but perilously slight exercise may score some additional theatrical gigs in Spanish-speaking territories, but elsewhere will be strictly a vid item.

With:
With: Angelo Torres, Danton Mello, Ana Cristina de Oliviera, Carlos Santos, Joao Lagarto, Marcantonio Del Carlo, Antonio Melo, Deborah Secco, Artur Agostinho.

For his first theatrical feature since all-star femme ensembler “Elles” (1998), an international hit, Portuguese helmer Luis Galvao Teles has come up with the anticlimactic “Fado Blues” — a very loose, very local caper comedy that a slight breeze could blow away. Opening April 1 on home turf, this pleasant but perilously slight exercise may score some additional theatrical gigs in Spanish-speaking territories, but elsewhere will be strictly a vid item.

Best mates Amadeu (Angelo Torres) and Leo (Danton Mello) are footloose young men who feel unhappily tethered in Rio de Janiero. Former ventured to Brazil from Portugal to make his fortune, but has been reduced to hustling sightseers at tourist attractions.

Latter is obsessed by pulp crime fiction, but bored to tears by his job at a book store that specializes in the stuff; worse, his girlfriend has just dumped him. Ergo when Amadeu suggests they cut bait and return home, Leo agrees — if only because his favorite author, Reis, lives there.

Arriving in Lisbon, they attempt to visit the fiancee Amadeu left waiting years earlier. Not only has her house been demolished, but the grapevine reveals that she finally married someone else.

Next, they go to secretive celebrity Reis’ house. Since no one’s home, and duo figure their hero might appreciate a little playfully criminal behavior, they break into his home. They’re caught there by beauteous mystery girl Lia (Ana Cristina de Oliviera), who wields a handgun in their direction at first, then agrees to act as intermediary between them and Reis.

The lads’ proposal: That fictive crime master-plotter Reis join them in a real, to-be-determined heist, its purpose being both monetary and educational (since Leo hopes to be a crime writer himself some day).

After getting the runaround and assembling a rather iffy crew of fellow conspirators, protags finally get to meet Reis (Joao Lagarto), who reluctantly climbs on board. They decide to steal a painting from a modern art museum. Needless to say, things do not go as smoothly as hoped.

There’s nothing particularly ingenious, suspenseful or exciting about this heist, nor is plot as a whole ever remotely plausible. Indeed, Teles and scenarist Suzanne Nagel seem disinterested in action/thriller mechanics; what they have in mind is more of a free-spirited buddy pic filled out by a gallery of amusingly quirky support characters.

Unfortunately, even on those terms pic doesn’t quite hit mark: High-spirited by-play between the two likeable leads is rather forced, while subsidiary figures are unremarkable (the dumb tough guy, the not-so-fatale femme) in both conception and performance. Sub-theme of excitement around Portugal’s participation in World Cup finals doesn’t add much plot-wise, but heightens amiably laddish tone.

What pic does have is a glossy enough surface to go down painlessly, if forgettably. Production design and widescreen lensing cast locales in a flattering, sunny light; breezy original songs on soundtrack sometimes comment (loosely, like everything here) on the action. Tech aspects are solid.

Popular on Variety

Fado Blues

Portugal-Luxembourg-Brazil

Production: A Columbia TriStar release (in Portugal) of a Fado Filmes, Samsa Film and Videofilmes production in association with RTP and Mutante Filmes. Produced by Goncalo Galvao Teles, Luis Galvao Teles. Directed by Luis Galvao Teles. Screenplay, Suzanne Nagle.

Crew: Camera (color, widescreen), Jacques Raybaul; editor, Pia Dumont; music, Nuno Malo; production designer, Clara Vinhais; art director, Jacqueline Cardoso; costume designer, Rosario Moreira; sound (Dolby Surround), Branko Neskov; assistant director, Teresa Ramos. Reviewed at Cinequest Film Festival, San Jose, Calif., March 13, 2004. Running time: 101 MIN.

With: With: Angelo Torres, Danton Mello, Ana Cristina de Oliviera, Carlos Santos, Joao Lagarto, Marcantonio Del Carlo, Antonio Melo, Deborah Secco, Artur Agostinho.

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