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REAL CANCUN, THE , USA , 2003 , MPAA Rating : R: sexuality, nudity, and language

THE REAL WORLD, for those of you not tuned into all things MTV, is a reality show on that network that pits, er, puts several college-aged kids together in luxurious digs for four months and lets us watch what happens. THE REAL CANCUN is the same concept and done by the same producers, Mary Ellis-Bunam and Johnathan Murray, but this time is spring break in Mexico and the cameras are on all the time, even during snuggling.


The genius of the franchise is not in what happens so much as in the delicate engineering of it and the exquisite editing after the fact. This begins with the casting, though for CANCUN, our team has not included as nymphoniacs or alcoholics. But then again, this is spring break in the new millennium, so making those judgement calls would be for all intents and purposes pretty much moot. They have also not cast any clinically sociopathic types for this project, perhaps because this is Mexico and international tensions being what they are, why take the chance?

What we do have, in addition to the trademark aquarium, are a lively group of good looking hardbodies raring for fun. Combine the roiling hormones, the copious amounts of tequila, and that sultry tropical climate and, well, do I really need to spell out for you what fun entails? For contrast we have Alan, the kind of guy who is usually described as sweet. And he is. When asked how he feels in a group of people who are drinking, he says in his try-out interview that he feels lonely and then usually orders a glass of milk. I mean, could central casting have come up with someone better? I think not. All this guy wants from the annual orgy of decadence that is spring break is a glimpse of some hooters. Anybody’s hooters. Could he be cuter? Again, I think not. The film’s editing arc quickly makes this the tale of Alan’s debauchery as his fellow spring breakers try to change him from the kind of guy that most girls say they want into the kind of guy that they end up with. It is, like pretty much everything else that goes on, both grotesquely fascinating and entirely predictable. Of course Alan is going to take that first drink, of course he’s going to be goggle-eyed at the wet t-shirt contest, of course he’ going to come out of his shell, and of course he’s going to become a sort of Cancun legend.


While this is going on there are all sorts of subplots, all carefully edited from the hundreds of hours of footage and several camera angles of many of the events from which to choose. And thus is it that on the morning after the first two of our crew hook up with each other, we seen him across the room, eating breakfast solo, a study of deliberate nonchalance as she looks on from a distance with a mixture of loathing and longing. And thus it is that the only two African-American guys vie for the attentions of Sky, the only African-American girl or, as she puts it in the smartest thing anyone says during the 90 minute running time, the token. As for the other lovable characters, we have Corey, a perky and industrious surfer dude type whose first question to the ladies, any ladies, is a plaintive “You wanna make out?”, and assorted meat puppets who spend their time working out so that, as one of them puts it, they can be pretty and don’t have to worry about having a personality.


It’s all smarmy in a voyeuristic way that makes you want to reach for the Lysol as you sit there watching it, idly wondering if there are paramedics and perhaps some rescue dolphins standing by as two of our crew stagger drunkenly into the pounding midnight surf. Forget the egregious product placement, as in every time someone drinks anything, it’s carefully positioned to have the label facing the camera. That’s a minor rankle. What Ellis-Bunam and Murray have achieved is something almost impossible in this youth-obsessed culture. They’ve produced a film that actually makes you glad that you’re not that young anymore.  

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