It’s probably just me, but when the economy’s this bad, even the latest movies seem to be all about bankruptcy, conspiracy, mindless consumption, bad plumbing, etc. Even when a film is about multitudes of people falling in and out of love in sunny Los Angeles (See “Valentine’s Day,” well, then again, don’t see it!) , I start imagining unrepaired potholes on the streets, flu-infested chicken meat served up as organic in posh restaurants, and notice (with a gasp) that most of the supposedly glamorous cast wears exactly the same ensemble from dawn to midnight without a single wardrobe change. What is that?

So there’s a sense of relief in watching “Rudo y Cursi,” which is comfortable having characters wearing sweaty clothes for days on end. No hypocrisy. No coverups. “Rudo y Cursi” is happy to depict desperation with frantic hair-pulling alternating with combustive laughs and a distinct, denim-damaged chic.

From the very opening scenes, the kids are wailing, the wife is nagging and there’s no cash, anywhere. Still, no problemo for the titular characters of “Rudo y Cursi”: a story seemingly hopped up on tequila straight from the bottle while chewing on the worm without blinking. It’s mindful of those wild, feverish dreams you have when the temperature is over 30 degrees C at night and the sweat has your pajamas clinging to every crack fissure of the body.

Rudo y Cursi
Director Carlos Cuaron
Run Time 101 minutes
Language Spanish
Opens Opens Feb. 20, 2010

A debut feature from Carlos Cuaron (Alfonso’s brother and cowriter), “Rudo y Cursi” pairs Latino dynamos Gael Garcia Bernal (“The King,” “Babel”) and Diego Luna (“Milk”) — the same combo that catapulted brother Alfonso’s “Y tu mama tambien” into box-office success. In “Y tu” the pair played best friends: nice college boys from uppercrust families mired in the antics of a sexual “Rebel Without a Cause.” In this latest team-up, the two are brothers — “Rudo,” which means “rude” (Luna), and “Cursi,” the equivalent of “cornball” (Bernal) — living in a Mexican countryside shack shared by a squabbling clan consisting of mom (Dolores Heredia), her abusive boyfriend, a halfsister (Adriana Paz) and a few cousins.

The brothers work on a banana plantation and play soccer on their days off, leaving plenty of time for Rudo to gamble at the local cantina and Cursi to nurse his dream of being a accordion- playing pop star. Life isn’t excellent, but it’s kinda all right — until one day there’s a chance to earn some real money. Smoothie soccer scout Batuta (Guillermo Francella) plucks the brothers out of the mud-ruck of their rural soccer field to play for professional teams in Mexico City.

You don’t have to know Mexico, or care about soccer to to get into “Rudo y Cursi.” It’s simply enough to spoon up and savor the story’s utterly poetic (if predictable), go-for-broke recklessness and bask in the joy of seeing Luna and Bernal on their home turf, relishing every minute. Up to their necks in dirt and sweating from every pore, dressed mainly in cheap sports gear and constantly flinging jibes at each other, they are exuberant without being endearing — you want to jump into the screen and turn a hose on them or something.

Not that they’d care because pretty soon the brothers have kicked their way to soccer stardom and they get it all: the babes, the nights at the casino, the fancy house. But as Batuta is fond of telling them: “The ups and downs of Mexican soccer are worse than a roller coaster.” One minute the brothers are relaxing in a living room with marble floors and given keys to a brand new SUV, the next they’re scrabbling for bus fare.

The glorious thing about the brothers, however, is that they remain more or less their same, clueless selves whatever the state of their wallets. They care about the game and they want to succeed, but when it comes to making a gigantic, heroic effort — they’re just not that into it. What’s the point, when kicking a ball and then downing loads of beer can be had back in their hometown? It’s an enviable state of existence but probably takes a particular talent to procure it, and then enjoy it. Rudo and Cursi deploy a special kind of alchemy: In their hands failure looks much more preferable to success.

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