TROUBLE CITY

DVD REVIEW: CASI CASI

Home VideoTom FuchsComment

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STUDIO: HBO Home Video
MSRP: $19.98
RATED: PG
RUNNING TIME: 93 Minutes
SPECIAL FEATURES:
o Director's Commentary
o Unschooled - The Making of "Casi Casi"

The Pitch

It’s like a lower-stakes version of Masterminds, which no doubt should’ve been emblazoned on the DVD cover.

The Humans

Marian Pabon, Mario Pabon, Irene Lucio, Alexis Arce, Ricardo Arias, Fernando Castro-Alvarez

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Dave Davis is forgoing the tradition forms of payment for his work in Hollywood.

The Nutshell

Emilio (Mario Pabon) is in love with Jacklynne, one of the prettiest girls in school. He decides that the only way to get her attention is to run for and win the student council presidency (because God knows nothing revs the ladies engines quite like student government), and enlists the help of his best friends to achieve this. What he didn’t predict is that Jacklynne will also be running for president. Now, in order to win her love, he must prove he’s selfless and rig the voting in such a way that he loses the election. Only things standing in their way are the principal (Marian Pabon) who’s constantly on their case as well as vindictive hall monitors and untimely power outages.

The Lowdown

I always have something of a soft spot for movies that make the most of what they’ve got and am more forgiving of ramshackle production values or some poor acting quality when it’s in the service of something where the output on screen clearly shows effort. And Casi Casi might not be anything of consequence narratively (basically just allowing for the cinematic staples of action/heist movies mirrors the apocalyptic feeling of a first crush), it’s an entertaining enough diversion that has a cobbled together quality where you get the impression everyone involved is doing everything they can to make the experience of watching their film as pleasant as possible.

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"This school's got a mean case of wall cancer."

The acting is extremely amateurish, but endearing (One of the lead characters seems only able to make one kind of mugging expression, and she uses it constantly: Seriously, it’s the female Spanish equivalent to Harpo Marx) and the same could be said for the plotline. Some things in this film stick out as being particularly bizarre (particularly, that for some reason this group of kids has raised the ire of the principal of the school when they don’t seem to be doing anything worthy of scorn other than teasing the hall monitors, which, not to get off on another tangent, feels sort of antiquated and silly, but works well within the parameters of the genre films they’re culling from here) and the film only suffers for it slightly. However, one thing that struck me as completely nonsensical was their trip out to San Juan to take pictures for the Student Council campaign in which the pictures they took were then used as basis for drawings on the posters they hung up around the school. What kind of bizarre fucking labyrinth excuse is that to get the characters out of the claustrophobic setting of the school? Little touches like that sort of exhibit the first-timer quality of the film itself, but it’s not enough to completely derail it.

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Teenage female suicide bombers are met with a handful of tampons and some carnations when they reach Heaven.

In fact, the Valles brothers do a pretty competent job with their direction and actually get the viewer pretty involved in the scheme and the protagonists’ attempt to carry it out. It may be a testament to the formula being strong, but they utilize it pretty damn well and allow for nice little action/thriller touches throughout what is really an extremely silly kids movie. Kudos to them on a nice job, and I’m looking forward to seeing what they have planned next. At the end of the day it’s perfectly acceptable for what it is, but isn’t really worth seeking out. Let’s put it this way. If you come across a viewing station in the desert with this DVD ready to be played, there’d be no need to turn down the opportunity. An entertaining bit of fluff.

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Drive-by bukkake has become a real problem in the Spanish-speaking countries over the past couple of years.

The Package

The cover doesn’t do too much for me, but how exactly to market a movie by first-time directors with a cast of non-actors shot on digital video in a foreign language is lost on me, so I can’t really cast aspersions on the marketing squad over at HBO. The film actually looks kinda decent even though it was shot on DV, so kudos to them on that. In terms of extras, you get an audio commentary with the brothers Valles which shows their enthusiasm for the movie as well as detailing their naiveté with this being their first foray into professional filmmaking. The ‘Unschooled’ featurette is pretty all-encompassing despite its sitcom length: follows them from the auditions (fun for seeing the actors give line readings for other parts) to the post-production (the audio recording, both Foley and musical were entertaining to watch). Not exactly bursting at the seams with extras, but some decent little tidbits if you were entertained enough by the feature film to delve into its origins and background a bit.

6.5 out of 10