As I've made clear in some of my other reviews, whenever a movie hits too many conventional notes, it tempts me to give it a rating on the lower end, and the reason for that is pretty simple: I watch a lot of movies, and as much as I love the medium, it gets tiring to see the same sort of thing over and over. However, that doesn't mean that I'm biased against all movies that are cliched. If a film is conventional yet manages to present its conventional material in a way that feels fresh and interesting, then that's perfectly fine with me, and that is precisely what happens with Rudo y Cursi (which is Spanish for "Tough and Corny"), the latest film from Carlos Cuaron, who cooperated with his brother a few years ago in writing the screenplay for the brilliant Y Tu Mama Tambien, which also starred Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna. The fact that Rudo y Cursi is helmed by Cuaron and that it stars the same two actors as the 2002 film will perhaps make some people expect this to be on the same level of cinematic quality as Y Tu Mama Tambien, but that's an incorrect approach, because the two films are quite different.
While Rudo y Cursi doesn't cover any new ground, it's still an interesting take on what happens when two people from a rural community who are entirely unfamiliar with city life and with the intensity of business-related situations (and the corruption that often surfaces during them) are suddenly thrust into the latter world. As soon as the film starts, we start getting very clear glimpses at the personalities of our two main characters, Tato (Garcia Bernal) and Beto (Luna), and once each of them (separately) makes the trip to Mexico City to become a professional soccer player, we get to see the different ways in which each character's personality reacts to the new environment, from the initial elation as a result of all the money they make, to the eventual frustration when things, predictably, take a turn for the worse.
In addition to the excellence of Garcia Bernal and Luna's lead performances, one of the things that makes Rudo y Cursi work well is the solid writing, in particular when it comes to the voiceover we hear throughout the film from Batuta (Guillermo Francella), who is the guy who comes to Tato and Beto's hometown at the start of the film, and decides to recruit them to play professional soccer. The voiceovers are full of insight, particularly towards the end, and my only problem with them is the decision to have the character of Batuta be the one to do the voiceover (this also includes an ill-advised instance of looking at the camera, in one of the film's last few scenes). The character of Batuta is meant to embody that "money is all" mentality that our two protagonists are initially unaware of and ultimately fall victim to, so it seems a little odd that this character was chosen to provide the bits of wisdom - it may have been best to have the voiceover just be done by a non-character, as was the case in Y Tu Mama Tambien.
Once the year 2009 ends and I get to assess the films of the 2000s, it's very likely that Y Tu Mama Tambien will rank among my top 20 favorite films of the decade. People who feel similarly may be disappointed by the fact that this reunion of Cuaron and the two actors isn't as audacious nor as emotionally intense. However, those who take it for what it is and appreciate its entertaining approach to material we've seen covered by plenty of other films should feel rewarded by it.