The Real Cancun

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MTV in the 80’s was awesome! Music videos all day long, crush-worthy VJ’s like Martha Quinn…it was the perfect way to veg out in front of the TV when there was nothing good on HBO. Gradually, though, so-called Music Television began to move away from the videos. Two of their more successful diversions were their annual coverage of spring break activities and one of the first forays into reality television, The Real World. So, in 2003, the two were put together for a big screen outing that quickly fizzled at the box office…The Real Cancun.

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The premise of the film is much like that of The Real World series. Not surprising considering it was produced by the creators of the series, Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray. Simply put, a group of college-aged kids from around the US are brought together to live in a fancy beach house in Cancun, Mexico for a week. We follow them as they go from party to party over the course of the spring break week. Occasionally they stop pouring alcohol down their throats long enough to go horseback riding or frolic in the water with dolphin. In one scene a girl bungee jumps from a platform and is stung by a jellyfish upon hitting the water. After having to endure Lee Daniels’ The Paperboy, this is the second film I’ve watched in as many days where someone is bathed in urine after a jellyfish encounter. Mostly, though, these kids get drunk a lot and rub their body parts against each other.

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There are a few attempts at creating storylines for a few members of the cast. Most prominent is the tale of Alan, who is a bit awkward with the ladies and has never consumed alcohol in his life. Of course, by the end of the film he’s a slobbering drunk and borderline sexual criminal. There is also a male/female set of friends, who are besties but have never gotten romantic. So there’s a whole will they won’t they thing with them. Many other hookups happen among the cast members in between the wet T-shirt and hot body contests.

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I guess I can understand why someone thought this film would be a good idea. After all, reality TV was a big big deal, so why not start a new wave of reality movies!? This film was rushed into production and even showed up in theaters a mere month after it was filmed. All was for naught, though, as it tanked and quickly vanished from the public consciousness despite an almost immediate home video release. I’m one of only 233 people to have even logged watching this film on Letterboxd! That’s not unusual for an obscure film released in the 1930’s, but this one is only 15 years old! I dare say, though, it’s kind of a worthy fate for a film that so clumsily walks the line between what is considered filmmaking and what is simply pointing a camera at stupid people doing stupid things.

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In a lot of ways, this film exploits that thing that was under the surface of The Real World which (I believe) drove people to tune in. It was that dark thought in the back of people’s minds that we might see these people who have been thrown together do something salacious with each other. For this film it was pretty much guaranteed. We’ve got Cancun, we’ve got horny kids, we’ve got booze…somebody’s gonna be bumpin’ uglies before long. The producers were so sure of it, they’ve even got night vision cameras installed over all the potential copulating venues around the house. Let’s just say we do get to see some grainy footage of bed sheets moving in rhythmic ways. I can’t help but wonder if this isn’t the fulfillment of what the producers wanted out of their Real World series all along had they not been constrained by the chains of basic cable. Thing is, it’s not the slightest bit entertaining and could certainly never be called “art.”

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Even from a documentary standpoint, the film is a disaster. I’m using the term “documentary” very loosely there, I might add. None of the people we get to spend 96 minutes with here are even interesting enough to warrant a 15 second Instagram video. Many of them, especially the guys, are so lacking in personality that they are virtually indistinguishable from each other. The one standout is Alan, primarily because he is not an over-tanned muscle head like the others and because he has no interest in consuming alcohol. He just wants to “see some boobies,” which is a desire he shares out loud several times. Thing is, the whole sobriety thing goes down the drain when he realizes getting plotzed will help make his dreams of exposed mammaries come true. It’s predictable and pathetic. Quite frankly, I think his story may have been more interesting had he found a way of being a party guy but without the liver damage. This is all “real” though, we see what actually happened, nothing was scripted (insert gif of Ray Liotta laughing from Goodfellas here).

Luckily, this awful awful movie had little to no impact on popular culture. Only one cast member, the small-town girl from Wisconsin Laura Ramsey, has gone on to other movies and TV shows. I was tempted to Google the other cast members, partly to see what they are up to and partly so I can be sure to avoid any potential contact with any of their professional endeavors. This brief intrusion into my life was more than enough for me to handle, thank you very much.

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