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April 25, 2003

Sex, booze and stupidity: spring break on the big screen

When the cast of The Real Cancun read Dr. Seuss's Oh, The Places You'll Go as children, they probably didn't realize that the places they'd go would include a wet T-shirt contest or a hormonal beachfront house complete with communal showering and haphazard hooking up. Well, at least their parents didn't realize it. The producers of MTV's infamous The Real World work their magic on a group of spring breakers spreading to the big screen their valuable message that everyone is a type of person. For The Real World-literate among you, that means everyone is either a small-town virgin, horny frat boy, game-less dork, compulsive liar, or attention-starved bitch; no one is more complex than these categories. The cast members of The Real Cancun try their best to do their Real World brethren proud: some find validation in winning the Hot Body contest, while others are content with being drunk every single second or bungee jumping into the ocean only to be stung by jellyfish. Reared on years and years of MTV's spring break and specials about the best of MTV's spring break, these kids know what it's all about: hedonism and a videotape to show the kids when you're old and fat. Anyone with half a brain knows that not only will your kids be grossed out, but you can't come out of such a thing looking any way but mean, stupid, or whorish. It's still sinister fun to watch these kids do their best to fit just such roles.

The cast is a collection of sixteen 19-to 25-year-olds either in college (mostly Arizona locations) or pursuing dead-end modeling jobs in Miami (Casey). There is the token black girl who affirms within the first hour that, yes, "I am the token black girl." Alan, the dork of the group, came to Cancun a virgin to the dark mysteries of alcohol. There is the actress-wannabe-turned-waitress from some small Wisconsin town. When asked what the townsfolk would describe her as, she said, "One word. Naughty." Clearly, the MTV executives had this one picked long before the others. They get to milk her for drama, ensuring she'll never act again, only to create more drama when she blames MTV for ruining her non-existent acting career--not that she had much of a chance in Brandon, Wisconsin anyway.

Of course, where would the cast be if they didn't include two twins from New Mexico, Roxanne and Nicole, who consistently try to out-smile and out-do each other's makeup, while fulfilling all the boys' lesbian twin fantasies? Or, what about the two boys, Matt and Jeremy, who have spent their entire Zoolander lives being ridiculously good-looking? Unfortunately, if you ask half the people who took the poll on the movie's Web site, they haven't even succeeded with that. Oh, and then there are the two "friends" from home, Heidi and David. It seemed like they interviewed for the movie so that they would have an excuse to finally get it on. The sexual tension between these two was explosive--and if the tape weren't edited to inflate it, it would still be as clear as the Cancun water. All in all, the cast was chosen appropriately for inciting the usual conflicts and casual sex. There's no Puck, but don't be too upset---he was a camera hog anyway. The random Snoop Dogg appearance and body shots are enough to keep the harshest critic inexplicably interested.

While MTV got rid of the confessionals for a more movie-esque quality, they kept the night cam for those dirty spontaneous bedroom scenes that end up being so voyeuristic they verge on soft porn, if you could ever actually see anything other than green-tinged arms. This time around nothing's hidden and it's made clear who's in whose bed. You know what they say, "sex sells," and sex is indeed the movie's focus. One of the cast member's epiphanies, if it can be called that, occurs when, after much pursuing, Paul finally gets to give Sky oral sex. She said she wouldn't let him do it after he brought home that nasty girl from the club, but she gives in on the last night--and the beauty of it all would bring tears to your eyes, if they weren't both stupid skanks. Oh well--pathos and poignancy have never been the whole reality genre's strong suit.

Another recurring theme is the whole end of innocence thing for the few cast members not already burning in hell. Alan, the non-drinker, ends up being the star of the movie as his fading inhibitions are met with loud approval from his fellow friends. In the first days his position provokes reactions like, "You're not going to drink? Like ever?" and "It's a manly thing to take a shot." Alan spends many hours discussing his girl-harnessing failures to impatient females who look around the room waiting for him to shut up, or with Jorell, his equally awkward black counterpart. When Alan shakes David's hand he exclaims, "You're a dork, too?" Still, this is not the time or place for Alan's winding philosophical soliloquies; it's time for some debauchery, and being the obliging boy he is, Alan takes a shot. The loud approval of the cast members finally brings him a sense of belonging. After that, nothing can stop him--he's all about every rum-filled belly button in paradise, occasionally adding seductive kisses when retrieving limes from unknown mouths. Several times, he repeats, "I just want to see boobies," and he wins the Hot Bod contest just because he so obviously shouldn't. He's learning fast what makes someone happy and popular, and on the last day, he is the only one who says, "I don't want to go home."

Laughing at the stupid comments and obvious psychological disorders of the cast is easy to do when they are far from your movie theater chair, which recline and have enough foot room to leave you comfortable in your distasteful viewing pleasure. Even when you know it's really sad and pathetic, it's a little hard not to laugh, which is what you're supposed to be doing anyway. Take the hysterical mumblings of the model Casey, which are pitiful but way too absurd not to savor. In an all too revealing moment, he looks in the mirror drunk and casually remarks, "Why don't I just shoot myself in the face?" He begs all the girls in the house to make out with him in the shower, and when they don't, he whines. Similarly, Sarah has a boyfriend from home but develops a crush on Matt, but when he hooks up with someone else, the drama that ensues is just as silly as her rationalizations for her anger. He punches in a closet door, while she maintains that she never liked him, forgetting in grand Real World fashion that we know she's a liar because we just heard everything she had previously said. In fact, she repeats herself and adds, "I am going home to the best boyfriend in the world," whom she never really mentioned up until this rejection. Lucky man that boyfriend is.

The thing about this movie is that, as much as people deny it, all this ridiculousness is kind of familiar. The reality of the Cancun experiences is too close to home, as most teenagers have an "I don't remember that whole trip..." or "my friend woke up in a random hotel room with a sore (insert word here)" spring break story. Fortunately, this movie gives all of those with or without such stories a chance to harmlessly observe and critique the sinful, caloric good badness of it all. The movie is a gift to the critic in all of us, even if, after a good laugh, the joys of voyeuristic distaste, and the contentment of condescension, we would all call it crap. I won't make that mistake, and neither should you. Embrace it for the good and dirty fun that it is and thank the cast for being yet another reminder why it's a bad idea to do a reality show, laughing at them all the while.