Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Movie Log: Girl From Rio

Girl From Rio is the kind of movie that can give you whiplash, as it bounces from seriousness to farce without any transition. It can also give you brain cramps, if you think seriously about the plot as it's going on. Luckily, it has Vanessa Nunes as the title character, and, once she appears on screen, one can at least look at her and forget everything else.

(Is that sexist? My apologies...but my wife completely agrees with me, for what that's worth.)

Raymond (Hugh Laurie) is a clerk at a London bank who loves to samba, but the rest of his life isn't working out too well -- he learns that he's not getting a promotion just before Christmas, his wife barely tolerates him, and even the rain seems to fall heavier on his head than on anyone else's. (His wife is also -- in a fine example of how Girl From Rio never does anything by half, even when it would have been a good idea -- having an affair with Raymond's boss, and is in fact jetting off for the Christmas holidays in the Canary Islands with said boss.)

So, Raymond's had all he could take. What does he do? He steals as much money as will fit in two large black garbage bags, as he locks up the bank for the holidays, and jets off to Rio to try to meet a famous samba dancer (Orlinda, played by the very fetching Nunes in a fascinating sequence of exceptionally short, tight skirts).

And there things begin to get odd. Raymond hails a cab at the airport, and gets Paulo (Santiago Segura) for a cabbie. Segura doesn't quite mug to the camera, but he clearly thinks he's in a broad comedy. Paulo is also somehow beholden to some kind of local crimelord, played by Nelson Xavier -- I think, since I never caught that guy's name. (Since he was dubbed in a high, nasal voice, like a minor Looney Tunes character, I took to calling him "Marvin the Crimelord.") On the way to the hotel, Marvin's goons hijack Paulo, kick out Raymond in a road tunnel, and take back Paulo's nice taxi. Why? It's not clear. Raymond walks out of the tunnel by himself, and is met by Paulo in an older, crappier taxi, and the movie continues as if that didn't really happen.

Paulo sets up Raymond in a fancy sea-side hotel, takes him shopping, and so on. Raymond declares he wants only to find the fair Orlinda, and Paulo acts weird and shifty. (More than usual, I mean.) There may have been a scene that explained this shiftiness -- I kept expecting to find out Orlinda was his sister, or something -- but, if so, it was left on the cutting room floor.

Anyway, Paulo introduces Raymond to Orlinda.

I have to pause here for a second to say that Orlinda talks a lot (when she isn't dancing), and that her accent, while beautiful and charming, is just enough so that half of what she says isn't quite comprehensible. So maybe she was explaining the plot of the back half of the movie -- but I doubt it.

Back to Raymond and Orlinda: they dance, they go back to his hotel, nudge nudge wink wink. In the morning, Raymond wakes to find Orlinda has stolen absolutely everything he owns. (Down to his dirty clothes, apparently -- another thing that made very little sense.) Raymond finds Paulo and sets out to 1) get the "them" who robbed him and 2) save Orlinda from "their" grasp. (He really is quite remarkably stupid when the plot requires it.)

Meanwhile, Orlinda goes on a shopping spree, until Marvin the Crimelord finds her and takes all her money.


Let me expostulate upon Marvin briefly. We don't see him running whores, or taking bets, or selling drugs. We don't see any sign that he provides protection, or has politicians in his pocket, or controls local businesses. He's just a guy with a funny voice (and a Chihuahua on his lap) who drives around in big cars with a couple of thugs. I'm calling him a crimelord, since the movie seems to view him that way, but all he ever does is grab large sums of money from locals. Perhaps that is a lucrative criminal niche in Rio?

(I'm not even going to get into what he does with the money, which makes far less sense than anything so far.)

Things go on from there, getting even less likely, if that's possible. I'm afraid that Girl From Rio, which started off solidly (if in a very cliched way) in London, turns into a big mess in Rio. It does have the requisite happy ending, but it takes quite a while, and goes through some very odd turnings, to get to that ending. I can't really recommend Girl From Rio; I got it because I like British comedies, and I like Laurie (particularly when he walks straight and has his proper accent), but it really doesn't work.

On the other hand: Vanessa Nunes. Yum.

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