For proof of American cinema’s global reach, look no further than “No Manches Frida 2,” which like its 2016 predecessor hews to a tried-and-true Hollywood comedy formula, albeit one embellished with distinctly Mexican flavor. Bright, crude and aggressively hackneyed, director Nacho G. Velilla’s follow-up prizes energy over originality. While its humor elicits far more eye-rolls than laughs — and will thus leave franchise newbies cold — its high-octane style should appeal to fans of the first film when it opens nationwide in theaters on March 15, courtesy of Pantelion Films.
In the original “No Manches Frida” (which was a remake of the 2013 German hit “Fack ju Göhte,” and whose title roughly translates to “WTF, Frida”), thief-turned-teacher Zequi (Omar Chaparro) saved Frida Kahlo High School by turning around its wayward students, and successfully wooed nerdy colleague Lucy (Martha Higareda). Now set to marry Lucy, Zequi finds his life in ruins due to a vomitus mishap at the altar. Compounding that calamity, Frida Kahlo High is once again on the verge of being shut down. Under the guidance of stern new principal Regina (Andrea Noli), a long-shot solution is proffered: win an inter-school competition held at a luxury beach resort, and the department of education will forget about foreclosure.
This makes no logical sense, and neither does the fact that the tournament has nothing to do with academics; rather, it’s a collection of volleyball, chess and dance contests, the school’s strategy for the last of which is assigned to an unwitting Zequi. Most of these matches pit Frida Kahlo’s misfit kids against the evil preppies of St. James, led by selfie-obsessed hunk Mario (Aaron Diaz) — who, it just so happens, is Lucy’s ex-boyfriend, and is soon putting the moves on her. Zequi thus finds himself fighting on two fronts, even as Lucy’s sister Laura (Carla Adell) worries about sleeping with Cristoba (Mario Moran), lest she lose him to rival hotties; and Lucy’s colleague Camilla (Itatí Cantoral) gets drunk and tries to entice any man within earshot with dirty propositions.
“No Manches Frida 2” is a cornucopia of commotion, with brawls, dance-offs, pranks, partying and other assorted hijinks strewn throughout. Director Velilla cuts storytelling corners at every opportunity, the better to maintain a swift, lively pace. From a formal standpoint, his Skittles-hewed visuals — which lean heavily on music montages and fast-forwarding aerial drone shots — lend the proceedings a style reminiscent of “High School Musical.” And like that Disney franchise, his sequel relocates the action from the classroom to an oceanfront getaway, and climaxes with an enthusiastic musical number that resolves all conflicts.
Though it’s constructed like an over-the-top cartoon and marked by an underlying chasteness, “No Manches Frida 2” marries its juvenile corniness with regular doses of adult-oriented crassness involving strippers, underage boozing and — lamest of all — Cantoral’s orgiastic moaning during a conversation about first-time sexual encounters. David S. Olivas, Claudio Herrera and Sergio Adrian Sánchez’s script never comfortably mixes its divergent comic tropes. Instead, it tries to compensate for the dissonance with breakneck speed, refusing to let any scene, or plot point, stick around long enough for viewers to contemplate their irrationality.
Still, the central problem of “No Manches Frida 2” isn’t a lack of tonal or narrative coherence; it’s a dearth of funny scenes and a preponderance of one-dimensional characters whose entire personalities can be gleaned by looking at their pose on the film’s theatrical poster. Higareda and Chaparro smile and scowl with relish, but all the wide-eyed mugging in the world can’t enliven this hyperactive grab bag of romantic clichés and penis jokes.