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Immigration Tango
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by brianorndorf

"Portnoy's World"
1 stars

The producers blew a major opportunity when they decided to turn “Immigration Tango” into a feature film. A concept more suited for a sitcom translation, the movie rushes through unrelenting mediocrity, hoping to captivate with its tepid comedy and chilly romance, making an inert farce without the benefit of a laugh track. It would’ve been right at home on network television.

A Caucasian couple with severe intimacy and financial issues, Betty (Ashley Wolfe) and Mike (McCaleb Burnett) have decided to help their dear friends Elena (Elika Portnoy) and Carlos (Carlos Leon) with their green card woes. With Elena nearing the end of her stay in America, Mike proposes marriage, looking to swap partners with Carlos, who would eventually marry Betty. At first an awkward solution, the foursome come to grow as humans under this new cultural influence, with Mike gradually developing genuine feelings for his fake bride, while Carlos and Betty find their differences charging their sexuality. Observing the commotion is an ICE agent (Avery Sommers), looking to catch the couples in the act of marriage fraud.

A vanity project of sorts for star/producer Portnoy (who also dominates the DVD cover art, despite not being the lead character), “Immigration Tango” looks to summarize her time as a Russian immigrant, funneled into a fluffy screenplay of one-dimensional emotions and “Three’s Company” plotting. It’s a low-budget effort from director David Burton Morris (“Patti Rocks”), who does away with the reality of the green card blues to construct a fantasy highlighting broad stereotypes and uncharismatic actors, distilling the gimmick into a tired routine of misunderstandings and easily telegraphed turns of plot. It’s a sleepy endeavor from the longtime director, who seems more interested in undressing Portnoy than trying to infuse the tale with surprise.

“Immigration Tango” is exceedingly unfunny, and a little ugly too. To make the personalities stick, the screenplay relies on caricature to hammer home cultural differences, with Mike and Betty uptight Caucasians in a perpetual state of worry, while Columbian Carlos is a fiery chef with a pronounced libido and Elena is a tender exhibitionist. The stereotypes extend to Mike’s parents, who are openly bigoted, disappointed their son would drop his Snow White to take up with a Russian. The filmmakers keep the tone light, but it’s difficult to digest the wilted sense of humor, which also looks to pure cartoon to make an impression, using the ICE agent as an Elmer Fudd figure, huntin’ rascals with binoculars or creeping behind trees. This is the comedy, folks.

An astute viewer will predict the ending of “Immigration Tango” by the conclusion of the opening titles, but that doesn’t stop the production from fulfilling such absurd predictability. The formula isn’t even candy coated for grandmas either, offering R-rated language, sex, and nudity, ensuring the target demographic that would most enjoy the movie will never go near it. Still, that’s a small miscalculation in a monumentally wheezy, foolish motion picture -- a lazy film that inadvertently romanticizes the efforts of immigration enforcement. By the end, you’ll be cheering for deportation.

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originally posted: 06/24/11 22:33:35
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  18-Feb-2011 (R)
  DVD: 28-Jun-2011



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