Game Not Taken Too Seriously In 'Rudo Y Cursi'

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Rudo and Cursi are rubes in the rough — hard-charging, sand-lot soccer-playing brothers without the street sense between them that you'd expect from a taco — which makes them ripe for the picking when a talent scout stops by the banana plantation that employs them in Carlos Cuaron's Mexican sports comedy, Rudo y Cursi.

The scout (Guillermo Francella) has a gorgeous woman in his convertible's passenger seat and a line of patter that makes sports stardom sound like a done deal. But he also says he can take only one of them with him to Mexico City. While Tato (Gael Garcia Bernal) would rather sing sappy love songs than play soccer (his nickname, "Cursi" is Mexican slang for "corny"), to Beto (Diego Luna), whose nickname is Rudo (roughly, "tough"), the come-on is like catnip.

So the brothers — the two are at once competitive and mutually supportive — quickly work a scam. A single kick will decide who goes. If Cursi makes it, he'll go; if Rudo blocks it, he'll go. On the way onto the field, Rudo whispers to his brother to kick right.

And Cursi does exactly that: He kicks to his right while Rudo dives in the opposite direction to his own right. Brotherly recriminations ensue.

But Rudo will get his chance, too. The film lets us see both these country bumpkins go all wide-eyed at the big city and get hazed in their respective locker rooms. And it lets them separately get in over their heads. Rudo loves to gamble, which is all too easy — and far more dangerous — once he's far from home. And back on the banana plantation, Cursi's singing could only bother his mother. Given resources and a TV studio ... well, let's just say his music video of "Quiero que me queras" ("I Want You to Want Me") will not strike fear in the hearts of Cheap Trick.

Bernal makes Cursi an amiable doofus, sweet and supremely gullible. And while the slender Luna won't be anyone's idea of a tough guy, his Rudo has a temper that helps the comedy go darker than it otherwise might.

Cuaron's script involves these guys in much male bonding, something that was also true of the story he penned for them in Y Tu Mama Tambien. He's also directing here (his debut behind the camera), which may account for the lighter, more lackadaisical tone he adopts. Where Y Tu Mama sometimes felt downright feverish, Rudo y Cursi is more laid-back and macho-mocking, as its heroes get into scrapes.

Intriguingly, in a soccer movie that has barely any on-screen soccer, Cuaron has been able to keep the sports and celebrity stuff realistic in ways that many Hollywood movies don't. Rudo and Cursi may dream of stardom, and even achieve a measure of it, but even they know the dream's unlikely to last. And that knowledge never leaves them, whether they're kicking a soccer ball in a crowded stadium or tripping over a speaker at a sparsely attended concert.

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