If JLo’s career went catatonic after Gigli, then after El Cantante I think it’s probably safe to go ahead and pull the plug on it. There’s no coming out of this coma. El Cantante is the worst movie I’ve seen since the last Jennifer Lopez teams up with her man movie, and if someone manages to make a worse film this year that’ll be quite an accomplishment.
The movie pretends to be the story of famed Salsa singer Hector Lavoe, as told from the perspective of his longtime wife Puchi. Even though putting spouses together in movies almost always results in cinematic disaster, El Cantante does it anyway by casting real life husband and wife Marc Anthony and Jennifer Lopez as Hector and Puchi. I say the movie pretends to be told from the perspective of Puchi, because it only seems to stick to this premise when convenient. The movie pauses frequently to let Lopez as Puchi, in some sort of bizarre, mock interview introduce each scene. This gives Lopez a chance to showcase her complete lack of acting talent. The movie’s awful mock interviews with her play out like someone’s final exam in acting class, and JLo looks like she’s practicing to play the character in front of a mirror. Lopez actually seems to become a worse actress with each picture, and her work in El Cantante represents a new low. But the really annoying thing about all the screen time she’s given to smoke and stare at the camera is that it’s all for nothing since once the scene she’s introducing starts rolling the camera follows Hector everywhere, with or without Puchi. There’s no real attempt to tell the story from her perspective, because that sort of complexity is light-years beyond this script’s grasp.
If there were a bright spot in the film, it might have been Marc Anthony as Hector Lavoe. He certainly looks convincing, drugging and whoring, and shrugging his way through the picture. Unfortunately El Cantante never lets us get to know his character. The movie skips through his life with no real rhyme or reason. It’s like watching the Hector Lavoe story on fast forward, were the remote control being held by a blindfolded mental patient who randomly switches to slow motion based upon a random bubbling sensation in his bowels. There’s no point to any of it, and the movie skips through Hector’s life without letting us know who he is or why he’s important.
The film can’t even properly present his music, the man never sings an entire song and if there was any sort of process to coming up with his sound it’s ignored. Lavoe simply shows up in New York and goes to work singing. Well we presume he’s singing. We don’t see much of it really, though people keep talking about how great he is and soon for no particular reason and with almost no effort on his part, he’s instantly elevated to the status of Latin god.
The same is true of his relationship with Puchi, who just sort of shows up, and then they’re together. We don’t know why they’re together, there’s no attempt to figure out why Puchi sticks with him, or even to figure out what they have in common besides a mutual affection for heavy drugs. Though maybe it’s for the best. If JLo can’t handle the meager morsels El Cantante’s lousy script gives her, I shudder to think what she might have done to good material. The musician biopic craze dies right here; bury it to the left of Jennifer Lopez’s once significant career.