Now that summer is winding down, movie studios are switching gears from comic book blockbusters to potential Oscar contenders. And while it’s doubtful that Cantinflas will land on any Best Picture lists, expect plenty of buzz about leading man Oscar Jaenada. His portrayal of Mexico’s famous funnyman is nearly spot-on, with a delicate balance of tenderness indignation and outrageous comedic antics. Jaenada’s performance is worth the price of admission alone, though there are plenty of other things to appreciate about Cantinflas.
The Man Behind The Myth
Curiosity is certainly a big factor driving this movie. Mexican movie fans know all about Cantinflas’ fast-talking film characters, his mastery of physical comedy and his trademark moustache. Heck, anyone who’s tuned into a Spanish channel on a Saturday afternoon has to have run across his presence at least a handful of times. But understanding the true Cantinflas (aka Mario Moreno), is a whole other story.
Moreno’s journey from small town circus clown to international film mogul is astonishing. He was also a trailblazer for actor’s rights, a successful producer and an American Golden Globe winner. Cantinflas covers all of these tidbits in great detail, along with his longstanding love affair with wife Valentina (played by Ilse Salas).
Crossing Two Cultures
One interesting angle that the filmmakers took with this biopic, was telling the story in two languages. For all intents and purposes it works, utilizing Spanish dialogue to showcase Moreno’s career in Mexico and English as he enters Hollywood to film Around The World in 80 Days. Sopranos vet Michael Imperioli is a standout as 80 Days producer Mike Todd, the man who first brought Cantinflas to America.
The film does a great job capturing the golden age of moviemaking, with characters like Elizabeth Taylor, Marlon Brando and Charlie Chaplin appearing in minor roles. It also shows Moreno’s ongoing struggles with fame, power and maintaining a stable home life. Unfortunately, it is in those moments where the movie tends to slip. Whether intentional or not, Moreno’s struggles with his wife tend to be a bit overdramatic and perhaps better suited for an over-the-top novela.