I've always liked The Real World. Great granddaddy of the reality television show, it was chugging its way through the genre decades before we were deluged with Survivor and its resulting mutant, reality television spawn. So it was at least heartening to hear that the latest foray into "Reality" feature filmmaking, The Real Cancun had the best people at the helm, Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jon Murray, the original minds behind MTV's "The Real World".
Much like its television forbearers, there isn't much actual reality mixed into The Real Cancun. The entire film is a series of contrived situations and setups, designed to get the types of "real" reactions director Rick Oliveira is looking for from his unscripted cast. This is the lowest common denominator in what was once called "documentary filmmaking" and has since been reduced to political propaganda and bikini money shots. Though in this case, The Real Cancun is cheap T&A at its finest, shallow, low, and willing to do anything to get a cheap thrill from its audience. This should have been terrible.
What saves it is a kid named Alan. See, the Bunim-Murray reality machine went out and cast a typical assortment of fucked up, party going, college jerks and threw them on a plane to Cancun where they could do predictably shallow and debauched things. However, into that cast of cliché, MTV, hot-bodied assholes, they carefully mixed a pair of friends in denial about their romantic feelings, two obligatory black guys, and a ?gee-whiz I never drink?, nerdy kid from Texas named Alan. Contrived. Setup. Completely. It works.
Alan jumps in and ends up filling the "everyman" role, the geeky kid who just wants to see some boobies, but ends up as the outsider while all the "cool" people are off having a raunchy good time. He stands in stark contrast to the other guys on the cast, in part because his is the only name anyone will remember, and in part because he isn't, as the other guys proclaim themselves "what girls are coming to Cancun looking for". Alan on the other hand worries, "I'm still the good kid right?" when goaded into doing body shots off of passing females.
The highlight of this... well I hesitate to call it a movie, but this whatever, is in following Alan's development from awkward outsider to king of spring break, amidst a wash of pathetically debauched cast mates who can't even fathom a life without being drunk. Deep down there?s this little part in all of us, that desperately wishes we could be king of spring break too. Insidiously, The Real Cancun worms its way into your head, till suddenly you find yourself cheering for lovable geek-boy Alan's first triumph and then subsequently flinging up your hands in frustration as he runs away in inexplicable terror. Along this bumpy road we get to know Jorrell and Paul, friends, but polar opposites. Paul has luck with the ladies, Jorell is funny and fat. Then there's the couple that's not a couple. A guy and a girl best friends and obviously in love, but determined to have only a friendship. Things between them get interesting, though The Real Cancun never lets us see how that relationship develops to full satisfaction. That?s disappointing, but in the end they wisely realized the cameras were better off pointed at Alan.
The rest of this thing is gravy, opportunities for boobs and whiny babes, lesbian kissing and brainless, spoiled guys taking advantage of their environment to satisfy their perceived needs. I?d be lying if I claimed immunity to old-fashioned T&A. Just about anyone can fall prey to it, whether or not they willingly admit to enjoying it. Real Cancun delivers stacks of it, wrapped up in hordes of teeny bikini bundles or package protruding Speedos, parading around wild beach sets like bought and paid for sluts, some of whom we care about, some of whom we don?t. Because of that, the movie is a solid R that with a little less editing could have easily become a messy NC-17.
No, this isn't at all the real Cancun, this is a carefully constructed set upon which Olviera has thrown his bunch of brats so we can get voyeuristic behind his ever watching cameras. Some of the cast isn't truly developed at all, though each has at least one moment in the sun. The few it does focus on, like Alan, are the ones most worth watching and in the end the only kids worth caring about. The result is a surprisingly funny, engaging, and entertaining 90 minutes of almost real entertainment, which in a way comes closer to resembling John Hughes' The Breakfast Club than the usual Survivoresc reality crud. This is a not so real cut above the norm and impossible not to love.