"Never has the strength to stand on its own legs."
Adapted from his own play by the same name, Luis Valdez also directs "Zoot Suit," a semi-factual account where several boys were sent to San Quentin for a murder they did not commit at Sleepy Lagoon in 1942.The characters were weak and hollow, the acting was way out of proportion and over-the-top, rigid and phony, and the direction was pretentious and contrived. The agit prop here in favor of the wronged Chicanos is a heterogeneous quilt of a filmed "production" of a play (in tact with scenes of the audience watching on; revolving sets), a musical, and a straightforward narrative, but the only thing it manages to prove is its instability and unsuccess of any of the set-forth goals. Valdez goes wrong by trying to use only the best of each of those compartments, but the unbalance tears the movie from all corners. It creates an awkward viewing, an annoying "style" and plays into the stereotypes instead of against them. (I have never heard pachuco so many times in 103-minutes, as well as plenty of other "barrio-ridden" colloquialisms like vato, símon, chalé, and so many more. The performances on all accounts are pretty awful, the music is dull (plain and boring jazz and swing), and the direction is very uninspired and cloaked. The trickiness of sudden time pauses and the interaction with the "alter ego" (Edward James Olmos) is a bad theatrical gimmick, and in the one scene where the alter ego can actually be seen, it only suggests that it was Hank (Daniel Valdez, Luis' brother) who committed the murder, which is later on contradicted by the suggestion that it was Hank's brother. In the end, it turns out to be a torrid convolution of unanswered suppositions. Olmos gives one of his worst performances ever, stiffly speaking the empty dialogue. Over-done, over-dressed. Additionally, for more of the same unbuyable type of performance, it would have helped the Daniel Valdez would have looked Chicano rather than Asian/Pacific Islander-ish.Final Verdict: D-.