REVIEW: Cantinflas (2014)

cantinflas

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2014, Pantoleon Televisa/Lionsgate

Director:
Sebastian del Amo
Producers:
Vidal Cantu
Adolfo Franco
Writers:
Edui Tijerna
Sebastian del Amo
Cinematography:
Carlos Hidalgo
Editing:
Nacho Ruiz Capillas

Cast:
Oscar Jaenada (Mario Moreno, “Cantinflas”)
Michael Imperioli (Mike Todd)
Ilse Salas (Valentina)
Barbara Mori (Elizabeth Taylor)
Luis Gerardo Mendez (Estanislao Shilinsky)
Alejandro Calva (Jacques Gelman)
Ana Layevska (Miroslava Stern)
Joaquin Cosio (Emilio “Indio” Fernandez)
Adal Ramones (Fernando Soto, “Mantequilla”)
Jessica Gocha (Dolores Del Rio)

The story of legendary Mexican actor Cantinflas is brought to life in this excellent biopic that juxtaposes the legendary actor’s career from 1931 to 1956 while Hollywood producer Mike Todd is looking for the actor to appear in his first major Hollywood film.

Hollywood producer Mike Todd heads to Los Angeles from New York in hopes to produce a film version of Jules Verne’s classic film “Around the World in 80 Days”, that will feature some of Hollywood’s biggest talents in both major and small roles. After coercing Elizabeth Taylor to appear in the film, the producers tell Todd of Mexican actor who has become one of that countries’ greatest comic talents, a man by the name of Mario Moreno, who is also known by his professional name, Cantinflas.

In 1931, Mario Moreno was a street-smart kid who goes to a tent show in Veracruz. After gaining some experience as a comic on stage, he is kicked out after an attempt to woo the show owner’s girlfriend goes awry. However, upon meeting Russian-born Estanislao Shilinsky, Moreno becomes a hit at his family’s stage and comes up with the name “Cantinflas” during a stage show. He marries Russian performer Valentina and word gets out of his performances. Transitioning into first bigger theaters then the movies, Mario’s life changes forever, but a line is soon blurred between himself and his iconic caricature. Despite the obstacles, Cantinflas becomes Mexico’s biggest star, who is now ready to take Hollywood by storm. But in what capacity?

If you are not familiar with the name Cantinflas (1911-1993), then here’s the bottom line. He was considered one of the greatest comic actors to come from Mexico with his improvised humor in films and earned the Golden Globe Award in 1957 for his performance as Passepartout in the hit Hollywood film Around the World in 80 Days, which won Best Picture at the Academy Awards. The role earned him international fame and Sebastian del Amo crafted the story of the legendary actor from his humble beginnings to his rise to international fame.

Oscar Jaenada perfectly looks the part of Cantinflas, meshing the comedic talent of the legend with the real-life drama that surrounded him off the screens while The Sopranos’ Michael Imperioli does a great job playing Mike Todd, the legendary producer of Around who would go on to marry Elizabeth Taylor before his tragic death in 1958 from a plane crash. Jaenada is truly the focus of the film and has great chemistry with Ilse Salas, who plays Valentina, Moreno’s beloved who stayed with him until her death in 1966.

The film has many special appearances from local talents including Barbara Mori as Elizabeth Taylor herself and others playing legendary talents of that era of Mexican cinema. What is interesting is the juxtaposing of Mike Todd’s attempt to lure Cantinflas to join the cast of Around first with a role that wouldn’t help him but ultimately, gets the co-lead role of Passepartout to David Niven’s Phineas Fogg.

Cantinflas is a wonderfully made biopic on the legendary comedic actor with some great juxtaposing on how he would break into international fame thanks to a great performance from lead actor Oscar Jaenada.

WFG RATING: A-

DVD

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