There’s not much that’s real about this movie beyond the second word of its title. Made by the team that masterminded the granddaddy of all TV “reality” shows, MTV’s “The Real World,” “The Real Cancun” follows the recipe of the genre by carefully preselecting a group of teens and twentysomethings to share a Mexican beachfront palace for a spring break week and then choreographing events to encourage trysts, confrontations and “comings-out” among them. If there’s such a thing as prefabricated reality, this movie symbolizes that unholy concept.
But the entire enterprise could have been more interesting were the participants a more personable lot. As it is, they’re mostly stereotypes. Casey’s an airheaded aspiring Florida model who’s perpetually smashed and whose opening salvo to every girl he meets is apparently to inquire whether she wants to “make out.” Bartender Jeremy is a smug, self-confident cad whose dalliance with Wisconsin waitress Laura takes a bad turn. Paul is a smooth operator who aims at Sky, a chick who rightly refers herself as the “token black girl,” while his jumbo buddy Jorell watches from the sidelines and cracks jokes. Roxanne and Heidi are statuesque twins who enjoy a good time. Matt is a fellow who gets friendly with sweet Sara but bungles things badly. And so on. This is not a highly sensitive or introspective group. They talk about drinking. They booze it up, often. They talk about sex. They have it, a bit less frequently. Otherwise they dance, doze and commiserate, petulantly. Most of them don’t have strong profiles; in many instances it’s difficult even to remember who’s who among them.
That’s why, by default, Texas A&M freshman Alan Taylor comes across as the star, the person around whom the story–such as it is–is structured (despite the fact that Paul and Jorell announce at the start that they’ll dominate things). Alan arrives at the hotel as an 18-year old self-professed “good kid” whose lips have never touched alcohol and aims only to “see some boobies.” Before the week is out Alan has been transformed into a tequila-guzzling party animal, wiggled his way to first prize in a “hot body” contest and gotten a girl (the two guys who guide the group from party to party say that he’s become a spring break legend); still, he manages to maintain enough of his down-home naïveté and directness to keep him likable.
Of course, in a picture like this it’s difficult to know what’s true and what’s pure make-believe. “The Real Cancun” is an artificial contrivance that doesn’t tell you much that you didn’t already know, but does so loudly and garishly. As to whether you might enjoy it, there’s a rather simple test. One of the house residents informs her mom by phone late in the flick that Snoop Dog is at the house. Mom replies, “A loose dog?” and when corrected, asks “Who?” If you’re in the same boat as that mother, “Cancun” is surely not for you. If, on the other hand, you dig Snoop, you might well appreciate it. It is, as they say, a generational thing.
The same applies to those related to the making of the picture. Most of the participants–except for those whose love life ends badly, one presumes–will regard the experience with a certain nostalgic pleasure. On the other hand, the older members of their families make take a very different view. It’s doubtful that their parents will be proud of them, for instance. One can only imagine the reaction of Mr. and Mrs. Taylor. Now there’s an idea for a sequel.