The most interesting thing about The Real Cancun — a knock-off of MTV’s long-running The Real World TV series that was actually cloned by that show’s cannibalistic producers — is the circumstance under which it was made: from photography (using mainly HD cameras) to finished 35mm prints in less than seven weeks. That’s some kind of record for a studio film and you might expect the finished product to convey some of the urgency –or at least amusingly reflect some of the desperation — of such a helter-skelter production schedule in interesting ways. But the results, sad to say, are appalling.
The 16 lunkheads gathered together for a spring break adventure are 15/16ths personality-free. The only semi-well defined character is Alan, who stands apart from his compadres when he swears he never drinks and doesn’t intend to start. (So it makes perfect sense that he headed to Mexico for spring break.) Everyone else is weirdly interchangeable, despite a few deliberately distinguishing characteristics. (There’s the two black guys who seem extraordinarily confident with the ladies, the bimbo twins with a Playboy TV attitude, the male model who says “hi” to girls by asking if they want to make out, etc.) With a strangely irritating editorial sensibility, the filmmakers work desperately at juicing up a narrative, but mostly meet with failure. Somebody gets bitten by a jellyfish, which leads to someone else pissing in a cup and pouring the golden confection over the wound. There’s a wet T-shirt contest for the ladies, ho-hum, which is then balanced by a hot body contest for the boys, yaaaawn. Whining eventually ensues, get me out of here. Here’s how bland and unsalacious most of this is — when the kids shake their groove thangs at a local hotspot, and N.E.R.D.’s lewd-and-lascivious “Lapdance” starts pumping on the soundtrack in all its nasty glory, it’s the edited version of the song. Lame.
There is a funny high-mindedness to the proceedings, as if the filmmakers really believed they were performing some kind of significant act of cultural anthropology, documenting the mating ritual of the American college student circa 2003. That’s actually a tenable goal, and it’s true that when you’re aspiring to cinema verité you’re kind of stuck with what you actually get in the can. (The Real World, which forces its protagonists to live with each other long enough that they seem to actually start to drive each other bugfuck, tends to get some pretty good material.) But this particular project is too hastily conceived and executed to have time for insight. The depressing climax of the whole affair — the ostensible too-hot-for-TV money sequence — comes as we see a series of actual hook-ups at Hotel du MTV, asses visibly pumping away underneath bed sheets insistently drawn to neck level, each encounter taking place behind the patina of grainy surveillance-style photography. The next morning, everybody seems depressed. That about sums it up — casual sex (and reality TV) as Sisyphean ordeal.