- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 4, 2002

''Y Tu Mama Tambien" is an overcalculated mixture of brazen prurience and polemical insinuation from the Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron, who directed the remakes of "The Little Princess" and "Great Expectations" under Hollywood auspices.

If the systematic sexual vulgarity doesn't bewilder or repulse you in the early going, the social allusions that accumulate like so much litter or roadkill in the concluding episodes may do the trick as Mr. Cuaron heads for an ironically muted denouement.

After coming on like carnally berserk gangbusters, the movie departs with the suggestion that every outrageous episode hurled at us has grown instantly obsolete. I'm not sure if this is a brilliant or just an exhausted stroke of anticlimax.

Art-house spectators who date back to the 1970s will recognize Bertrand Blier's "Going Places" as an obvious prototype. A seminal shocker when new, the Blier film introduced the team of Gerard Depardieu and the late Patrick Dewaere as young louts on the lam and the prowl, seeking hedonistic gratification wherever it could found or coerced until someone or something stopped them.

Mr. Cuaron transforms the French lowlifes into Mexican teen-age cronies, the socially privileged Tenoch (Diego Luna) and the lower-middle-class Julio (Gael Garcia Bernal), whose girlfriends have departed on summer vacations to Europe. The movie begins with quickie bouts of farewell fornication between the boys and girls.

In the absence of their sweethearts, the boys make do with booze, pot, ecstasy, masturbation and incessant obscene joshing. The title itself, which translates as "And Your Mother Too," is a postscript to a commonplace obscene insult.

At a wedding party so posh that the president of Mexico supposedly is an honored guest, the boys encounter an older Spanish woman of 28, Luisa (Maribel Verdu), the unhappy wife of a cousin of Tenoch's.

Apprised of her husband's infidelity, Luisa accompanies the boys on a motor jaunt from Mexico City to the Pacific Coast. They have boasted of an idyllic beach nicknamed Boca del Cielo (Heaven's Mouth). Luisa's availability obliges them to back up the lie, which they inadvertently do, meanwhile becoming desperate love objects for Luisa herself as she drowns more woes than we're initially privy to in shameless behavior.

The movie's obscenity has a consistently satiric emphasis. The joke of the great seduction at Luisa's hands when the red-hot-mama impulse overwhelms her is that neither Tenoch nor Julio proves a competent erotic partner.

The narration, which is inserted in an obtrusive way, acquires an additional quirk: predictions of what awaits everyone, man or beast, in the days and years immediately beyond the time frame of the movie.

This device has its amusing uses, but Mr. Cuaron maneuvers himself into a beachfront dead end. If the movie is not going to be content with mindless, screwball prurience in the long run, some explanation for Luisa's desperation must be contrived. When it's revealed, the movie's facetious smuttiness begins to look a trifle, well, insincere, a method of setting us up for feeling more guilty than dirty.

Despite the wretched excess of the gaminess, "Y Tu Mama" has more integrity when it's flaunting Tenoch and Julio as grotesque examples of the younger generation, so overstimulated by dope, testosterone and porn fantasies that they are useless for anything of a respectable nature.

I cannot pretend to guess how seriously Mr. Cuaron takes them as specimens of Mexican youth, but he spoils the satiric exaggeration by rediscovering them as slightly older and dramatically subdued lads in his epilogue.


*1/2

TITLE: ''Y Tu Mama Tambien"

RATING: No MPAA rating (Frequent profanity and systematic sexual candor and vulgarity; simulations of intercourse and drug use; obscene jokes and allusions; occasional nudity; simulations of urination)

CREDITS: Directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Written by Carlos and Alfonso Cuaron. In Spanish with English subtitles

RUNNING TIME: 105 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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