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Overall Rating

Awesome: 13.04%
Worth A Look: 13.04%
Average: 2.17%
Pretty Bad: 28.26%
Total Crap43.48%

5 reviews, 16 user ratings

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Cantante, El
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by Slyder

"And we wonder why Salsa music just didnít hit it with the gringosÖ"
1 stars

Good lord, what a fucking mediocre movie this was! Being from Hispanic heritage, and having grown with Salsa music, itís truly a fucking shame that one of the most world-renowned names in Salsa music, and one of the most beloved, received such a trashed out, completely heartless and utterly atrocious ďtribute.Ē Lambasted even by fellow Salsa greats and people who knew the aforementioned Cantante, Hector Lavoe, itís hard not to see why their criticisms were justified. But even more; cinematically, itís a complete hatchet job and a blatant vanity project by Marc-nnifer (Marc Antony and Jennifer Lopez), who were simply making a love letter to themselves and forcing the audience, ESPECIALLY the audience that grew and loved the man they depicted here, to watch it and make themselves rip their own fucking guts out of anger and disdain.

Iíll be reviewing El Cantante shortly, but first of all, I want to give you a bit of background for all of you neophytes out there. Feel free to skip this following paragraph, but itíd be advisable to give it a read so that you can understand a bit more about where Iím coming from since most of you have not heard of the man or of the genre that he helped make so popular within the Hispanic communities, so please bear with me:

Many people in the United States have never heard of Hector Lavoe, and for a good reason. Itís hard to try and have someone like a type of musical genre that they havenít heard before and worse if itís sung in a foreign language. Rock/pop music is the most widely accessible form of music these days (or at least it was until Rap/Hip-Hop/R&B started hitting the airwaves big time in the mid 90s) and youíd be hard pressed not to find a soul on earth that at least digs a rock/pop tune, no matter what language they speak. But music is made of a whole lot of genres, not just rock and pop, and thatís where the divergence starts. Thatís where the audiences become less and less general and more and more selective. The southern folk love their Country and Bluegrass, the black community digs their Soul and R&B, the boys from the east look for influences in European sounds, and the Hispanics tend to branch out towards their own type of music, be it Rancheras (Mostly Central and Northern Mexico), Cumbias (Mexico and parts of South America, notably Colombia), and of course Salsa music (pretty much most if not all of Hispanic America). Not that Iím trying to generalize, but just to give you a rough idea of how musical tastes diverge depending on where you live and what kind of people you live with. Having grown up as a deep-to Ėthe-bone rock n roller, you could say that I was part of a selective minority where I lived in Mexico, due to the fact that they love their Rancheras, Corridos and Salsa music over there. None of my friends gave a fuck on whether they have heard or liked The Police, Pink Floyd or Rush, or Nirvana or Smashing Pumpkins or any other English speaking rock band. Thatís not to say that there arenít any Spanish speaking pop or rock artists over there. Oh boy, there are plenty, and are very popular, but for me, apart from a few select tunes, I didnít get into those genres very seriously (I for one detest Rancheras, and many Mexicans would be looking for me with their machetes if they heard me saying that). It wasnít until my mid-20s that I finally gave Salsa music a stab, and that was completely by accident. My family, apart from being rock-n-rollers themselves, is also avid diehard salsa fanatics as well. I grew up with the medium, but never paid it much attention, although there were some really good tunes that I liked. It was through my formative stages that I started hearing about names like Ruben Blades, Eddie and Charlie Palmieri, Ray Barretto, Richie Ray and Bobby Cruz, Willie Colon and of course, Hector Lavoe. Salsa music started way back in the late 70s, when several of the boys from places like Puerto Rico, Cuba, Panama, and other Caribbean countries, soon grew tired of the one-note genres like Latin Jazz and Mambo and their proponents like Tito Puente and Tito Rodriguez and Perez Prado, and soon started messing around with their own fusions that ranged from the aforementioned Latin Jazz and Mambo to Swing, Guaguanco, Charangas, and other styles. Itís because of these fusions that the music they made was called Salsa (Spanish for Sauce, as in a sauce containing several ingredients). The label Fania Records pretty much was the one the started the whole deal and once its young artists became smashing successes, the label jumped into the stratosphere, along with a couple of other labels (Alegre, Tico). Amongst the forerunners, there was Willie Colon and his singer Hector Lavoe. Lavoe immediately began to be noticed, along with Colon as a force to be reckoned with. He had a high tenor voice with a bit of nasal-ness that made him a perfect match to sing Salsa music and itís challenging ďsoneroĒ improvisations. Their songs spoke about the Ďhood and how they saw it in the Hispanic community. You could say that it wasnít very different than the blacks (replace ďbiaatchĒ with ďpuutaĒ), but how he sung it and the energy he placed on every note he sang, got into your very bones. But not only that, his energetic performances and the nature of Salsa music itself, made you want to dance the living shit out of your shoes in the dance floor. Nobody could match him when it came to singing and few people were barely able to match him in terms of performance. The Fania label was so huge that their founders created the Fania All Stars tour, in which all of the best performers of their repertoire, Lavoe included, would play shows for all of their fans (they came once to the Yankee Stadium, and were there in Zaire just before Ali vs. Foreman). In other words, Fania was to Hispanics what Motown was to Blacks. Anyways, going back to what I said before, I accidentally got into Salsa music BIG time after I purchased a couple of CDs for my dad, one of them was a Colon-Lavoe album called Lo Mato Si no Compra este LP (Iíll Kill Him if You Donít Buy this LP; fancy, eh?), and the more I listened to it, the more I just started loving it. The sounds, the songs, the vocals, everything. Since I was also getting a tad tired of rock music and also dismayed at the direction it was going, Salsa music immediately fell on me as something refreshingly new (even though I had heard it overtime in my entire life, but never paid attention to it). It made me want to learn to dance and try and play the trombone, for Christís sake, something I could have NEVER seen myself doing before. So yes, I ended up being a big fan of Lavoeís and the entire Salsa genre. Iíve come to love it so much that some people even wonder if Iím even Mexican at all (You must be from Puerto Rico)!

To be honest, I didnít hear about the movie until the very day that it came out, and I saw a small review on People Magazine, and it spoke of the worst. Then I looked into Willie Colonís website, and right there and there he denounced and trashed the film because it ultimately was more about a ďpair of Boricuan drug addicts.Ē I was already skeptical of the movie itself as it had both Jennifer Lopez and his hubby Marc Anthony as the main stars in the cast (and Lopez as one of the producers of the film for fuckís sake). As time passed the negative word of mouth got bigger, and the film sank at the box office without a trace. Upon reading further negative reviews, I made the decision to not rent the film at allÖ until Thanksgiving weekend came, we went to visit my uncles, and my uncle came out with a rented copy. Fully aware of the negative lambasting, I nevertheless went and watched it with an open mind, waiting for the film to kick into gear and at least give a decent portrait of the man most loved by all in the Hispanic community. What I got instead was a poorly made, half baked, and totally hackneyed piece of trash, only worried to show the darkest, shittiest aspects of Hector Lavoe and COMPLETELY IGNORING what made him the star that he ultimately ended up being in the first place.

Hereís how the plot says that Lavoeís life says it went: Hector Perez (Marc Anthony) was a naÔve Puerto Rican singer who went to the US against his fatherís wishes because his brother had been killed there. He goes anyways, finds some bars in the Hispanic hood and starts singing (just like that!). Then, later on at a party, he meets Puchi (Jennifer Lopez), a local groupie and drug sniffer whom she later falls in love with. Perez keeps on singing, and out of the blue he gets hired by Fania owners Johnny Pacheco (Nelson Vazquez) and Jerry Masucci (Federicco Castelluccio) to sing along newcomer Willie Colon (John Ortiz), but not before changing his name to "Lavoe" (as in La Voz [The Voice], but in French). So, he goes, and records, and sings, and sells records, then he goes and fucks Puchi some more (Sadly, no Lopez nudity, DAMN IT! I always wanted to see that big bare ass of hers!!!) and then gets into drugs big time, has a kid, then sells more records, then he gets even more into drugs, fights with Puchi, then they get back together, he cleans his act up, only to fall again, and later fucks his relationship with Colon up because he was always late to concerts, and then his kid dies, then he and Puchi separate, and then he jumps off the building in a fit of jealousy and loneliness, survives, only to die later of AIDS.

Thatís it. Thatís the whole movie. Hell, it doesn't even bother to play the title song to at least ĺ of its length. All that writer/Director Leon Ichaso did was construct some moody drugged-out scenes, coupled with a few marriage fights and a few MTVĖlike highlight reels of his greatest hits and patch a movie out of that. Never mind how Lavoe came into his decision to sing, or how he got in with Colon and how they became the best of friends, or how they made their songs into the classics that they are, and what was the REAL reason why they actually became renowned in the first place! Weíre not supposed to care about how he made his bones, or how he developed his music and talent. Weíre not supposed to care why salsa music connected with a lot of Hispanic people. Weíre not supposed to care about his legacy or the fact that he was a troubled human being seeking to find peace of mind and in his heart and tragically failed to do so. No, whatís more important here in this movie was to show how Hector turned out to be a stoned junkie and a piece of shit, because apparently depicting the dark side of humanity in a celebrity sells more tickets instead of showing the good things that one celebrity made or achieved. THAT'S RIGHT! BAD PUBLICITY SELLS! Thanks for nothing Leon, you idiot motherfucker! Go back to fucking screenwriting school so you can learn how a true biopic is made.

Marc Anthony is completely miscast in the role of Lavoe. Never mind that he canít act his way out of a brown paper bag; the guy simply canít reach Lavoeís high tone of voice. Anthony is an established singer of his own, and of course he can sing, but he simply canít match Lavoe in voice, and that does a lot of damage to his attempt at credibility in making us believe that heís Lavoe. One could argue that it goes against the principles of acting, but this only works if youíre able to mimic the original voice you are trying to emulate (Jamie Foxx went and sang with his own voice in Ray, Sissy Spacek also did the same in Coal Minerís Daughter). This is just not the case with Anthony, and he fails at that. If it were other people making the film, they couldíve gotten away with the actor lip-synching the singing parts, but since this is The Marc and Jennifer Show, you got to give the egos their dues.

And speaking of Jennifer, apart from giving yet another lame, thankless and worst of all, an excruciatingly irritating performance, the fact that she was one of the people pushing for this project to be made and then looking at what the end result turned out to be makes me want to hate her even more. Sure, sheís come out and defended the movie, claiming that she did it out of love and respect for Lavoe and what the movie portrayed was the truth, yadda yadda yadda. Well JLo, congratulations. Youíre just made yourself into the most hypocritical and narrow-minded bitch out there. Nobody in their sane mind would go out and make a tribute film about someone so loved and respected by all, by showing us ONLY the shitty aspects of oneís life and just gliding over the achievements that made such a person what it was. Furthermore, if you wanted to make a film about somebody that only a select part of the community knows about, but is largely unknown by a grand majority of others, how are you then going to make those OTHER people care or even attempt to provide them with at least some insight into that personís life if you have nothing to talk about except spending the entire time of the movie just regurgitating a series of pathetic used-up clichťs?

At least Taylor Hackford had the decency of portraying all the great things and great moments that made Ray Charles into the beloved icon he was as well as showing the dark side that almost brought him down. Never mind that the film skips over history like a rock skipping over water, and that JLoís character Puchi actually didnít play that big a role in Lavoeís life. Lopezís Puchi (her actual name is Nilda, BTW) comes off apart from being a junkie, as a manipulative, fame-seeking bitch that one wonders how the fuck did Lavoe ever manage to stick with her for the longest time. And furthermore, JLo and Ichaso commit the fatal mistake of telling Lavoeís story from Puchiís point of view. In fact, Puchi's character was clearly beefed up and inflated more in order to saciate Lopez's already gigantic ego of getting more screentime. They even have the film book ended with a recreation of the interview that a TV company made to Puchi shortly before her death, and parts of that interview also introduce several other scenes throughout the movie as well, even stupidly enough, scenes that not even Puchi herself would have even been able to witness. Too bad that Lopez and Ichaso failed to realize that by making her part bigger, it would result in the main character of the whole fucking movie being sidelined into a supporting role. How bout that? HECTOR LAVOE RELEGATED AS A SUPPORTING CHARACTER IN HIS OWN FUCKING BIOPIC!!!!

I mean, come on! You think people would have learned the lesson after seeing such films like Cry Freedom or Frida, and how their respective potentials got hindered because they actually portrayed the main character via an OUTSIDE character's point of view, and therefore obfuscating the main characterís importance because of it (ďFrida shouldíve been called Diego instead,Ē remember?). And lets get even further into the scenes involving Lavoe, that Puchi would have absolutely not even known about at all and yet talks about them as if she had been present when they happened. Sigh...

But this goes further, and you donít have to be Albert fucking Einstein to figure it out. Connect the dots and the larger amount of screentime for Puchi Lopez in the movie and you can see for yourself that you have once again another blatant example of a sellout whore that calls herself an artist, making a thinly disguised vanity project so that she can win once again the hearts of the Latinos and cash in on Lavoeís fame; and she has her jerk-off husband to tag along with. Hell, it even makes me suspect that Anthony simply agreed to make this movie just to get back at Lavoe after El Cantante called a then-long-haired Anthony an "ugly little girl" several years ago when they first got introduced to each other. If that turns out to be the case, then he'll forever be in my eyes nothing more than a low-life piece of shit.

But going back to this film, itís a shame, a real fucking shame that an icon like Lavoe and the Salsa music genre was completely trashed like this. Everyone has had to go through some very bad times, be it drugs, alcohol, or smoking, and other abuses. Some people manage to rebound, some tragically donít. But in the end, itís what you made in life what ultimately matters, and people, at least the people that care, will remember you for it. And Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony donít really care. They donít give a flying fuck at all.

In the end, AVOID this movie at all costs. Itís a worthless pile of horse manure that we could have done without. As far as tribute films and biopics go, this one is by far the worst and the most blatant. I hope to God that it ruins the careers of everyone that was involved in this turd. Hector Lavoe ultimately was a beloved figure who's life was cut short due to tragedy, but he will forever live in our hearts as the King of Salsa. And it's too bad that this film simply pissed on that legacy by throwing away such a great opportunity (hell I donít even think they took to the opportunity at all in the first place) to tell everyone in the world what was it that made Lavoe and Salsa music so great and special back then. I therefore concur my wishes with Willie Colon in the last sentence of his letter denouncing this film: Please forgive them, Hector. 0-5

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originally posted: 12/05/07 16:15:21
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2006 Toronto Film Festival For more in the 2006 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

10/24/07 William Goss About as generic as musician biopics come. Lopez is especially grating. 1 stars
8/26/07 Adriana Excellent Film! The couldn't have found more perfect actors for the roles! 5 stars
8/05/07 Pedro El Cantante es muy malo 1 stars
8/05/07 Bill Gosse Someone should teach Peter the value of shorter paragraphs...and how to write. 2 stars
8/04/07 mg superb acting, music, i'd see it again 5 stars
7/17/07 Ray Atonishing! Definitele Lavoe is the latin Elvis Presley. A must see. 5 stars
9/29/06 jesus I Say in spanish: Es una porqueria, las peliculas de Lopez son mierda 1 stars
9/29/06 Michelle Total Crap!! makes Gigli look like a an Ocar contender 1 stars
9/19/06 Diane Browne This is one of the most boring films I have ever seen. Don't waste your time. 1 stars
9/19/06 Jack Handy UGG.. 1 stars
9/18/06 Margaret AWESOME MOVIE! Definitely a Must SEE! 5 stars
9/15/06 Rafa Great Music (better said incredible music)--BUT---the script and acting bad. 3 stars
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  03-Aug-2007 (R)
  DVD: 30-Oct-2007



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