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Dustin Putman

Dustin's Review
The Real Cancun (2003)
2 Stars

Directed by Rick de Oliveira
Cast: Alan, Amber, Ben, Brittany, Casey, David, Heidi, Jeremy, Jorell, Laura, Matt, Nicole, Paul, Roxanne, Sarah, Sky
2003 – 90 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for language, sexual content, and nudity).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, April 26, 2003.

"The Real Cancun," produced by Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray of MTV's "The Real World" fame, purports to being "The First Spring Break Reality Movie," which may be true. How real it is for sixteen college-aged strangers to come together and rent out a luxurious beachside hotel resort for a week is another story, but one suspects that everything else that goes on is pretty close to what it is like for teens and twentysomethings to let loose on a vacation. Considering how stressful college is (and I should know; I'm currently enduring it), is it any wonder why alcohol consumption is so prevalent within this age group?

This documentary film, which plays like a slightly naughtier and more lewd 90-minute version of "The Real World," may be more at home on a television screen once it goes to DVD, but it is admittedly a lot of fun all the same. As mentioned, sixteen people from all different parts of the U.S. were chosen from a reported 10,000 candidates to let loose for a week together in Cancun, where the hard liquor flows like wine, relationships are formed (and in some cases, then broken), and everyone leaves on the seventh day with some great memories and the certainty that their charades will be released to the big screen for all to witness.

As the end credits began to play, I was at first disappointed there was no epilogue telling us what happened to these sixteen characters, and then it hit me. "The Real Cancun" was shot in mid-March of this year, and is now being released one month later. With the production-to-release window possibly the shortest in motion picture history, it is amazing director Rick de Oliveira and clearly overworked editors Eric Spagnoletti and Dan Zimmerman were able to sort through over 100 hours of footage in less than a month to put together a film that not only makes sense, but actually features several satisfying narratives and a few authentic character arcs.

Alan, the movie's lead hero, is a virginal 18-year-old college freshman who has never had a single drink of alcohol in his life. As he watches his costars joyfully carouse around in skimpy outfits, Alan sits from the outside looking in. By mid-week, he has not only gotten drunk, asking after he does his first body shot, "I'm still the good boy, right?," but has won the Hottest Male Body contest. Near the end, Alan also begins a sweet-natured relationship with another vacationer.

Meanwhile, self-proclaimed "Token Black Girl" Sky is pursued by Paul, who eventually tires of her hard-to-get routine and sleeps with someone else. Sky feels betrayed, but is unsure exactly why. 18-year-old best friends Heidi and David ward off questions about why they are not a couple. Toward the end of the week, they are questioning the same thing. All the while, aspiring model Casey goes around asking anyone—and I mean anyone—if they will kiss or take a shower with him, but to no avail. Casey may look good, but on a smoothness scale he rates at a big fat zero.

Zippily paced and filled with hip music, idyllic cinematography (the helicopter shots of Cancun are awfully enticing), inconsequential laughs, and even a few quiet, touching moments, "The Real Cancun" is better than expected and never boring. Had more time been given to post-production, however, some of the other cast members might have been presented in a more developed fashion. Occasional leads pop up that one swears they haven't even seen before, while too many of the girls have blond hair and look exactly alike. The consequences of nearly non-stop alcohol consumption are also washed over, with nary a sea of vomit or a morning hangover anywhere in sight. Then again, maybe they have just grown immune to the stuff.

"The Real Cancun" may not mean much in the end, but as Alan and the others wave good-bye to their spring break and prepare to leave, viewers may be left startled by how much they are going to miss some of the people they have just met. A followup movie, where the same sixteen have a reunion next year at a different spring break resort, sounds like a rather appealing idea. Just don't tell some of the older, stuffier critics I said any this, because they clearly wouldn't understand.
© 2003 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman