Mex comedy will draw Latina auds but crossover biz unlikely

Casi Divas

on August 27, 2009 by Steve Ramos
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Audiences in search of mainstream Latino entertainment instead of the serious Spanish-language dramas that frequently plays U.S. arthouses will appreciate the comic qualities, chatty heroines and reality TV backdrop of Casi Divas. Four Mexican women from diverse backgrounds (Maya Zapata, Daniela Schmidt, Ana Layevska and Diana Garcia) compete on network TV for the leading role in a new movie based on a popular Mexican novella. Standing in their way is the veteran actress (Patricia Llaca) who created the role on TV and also wants the film part.

Casi Divas ( Almost Divas ), the latest comedy from Mexican writer/director Issa López will do well with female fans of Ugly Betty, or Telemundo novellas for that matter, and reality TV fare like American Idol and Dancing With The Stars. Marketing targeted to the Latino community that emphasizes the film's light-hearted comedy, soap opera-inspired surprises and attractive female leads will help Maya Entertainment, which bought U.S. theatrical and home video rights after the film's showing at the Los Angeles International Latino Film Festival, attract sizable support from Latino moviegoers. Without positive critical reviews or good word of mouth, the potential for crossover biz to mainstream arthouse crowds is slim and unlikely.

López returns to the genre of her 2006 Mexican film Efectos secundarios, another youthful ensemble comedy, and confirms her talent for comic timing, likable young characters and easygoing performances.

The screenplay for Casi Divas is an in-house effort: López adapted the original story from an idea by Sony International's EVP of Creative Advertising Ignacio Darnaude. Columbia Pictures Producciones Mexico financed the movie.

López makes the most of the film's likable lead females and their developing friendships. Meanwhile, the film's girl-to-girl comedy far outshines its frequent bursts of melodrama, two-dimensional male characters (especially Julio Bracho as the producer of the talent show) and surprising lack of suspense over who will win the contest.

Clichés aside, the would-be divas of Casi Divas shine bright. Maya Zapata ( Under the Same Moon ) gives a standout performance as Francisca, an indigenous Indian who finds a friend in a competing finalist, Yesenia (Daniela Schmidt), a Mexico City hairdresser with a surprise to share.

Patricia Llaca puts her wide eyes and flaring nostrils to comic use as the star actress, the true diva of the group, determined to stop the talent search.

Thanks to its lively pace and easygoing humor Casi Divas, the first of López's films to play theaters outside of Mexico, is an entertaining diversion sure to please its core Latina fan base.

Maya Entertainment, the Los Angeles-based sister company of Maya Cinemas North America, opens Casi Divas in select markets with sizable Latin communities including New York, Miami and Los Angeles Friday and plans a limited platform release throughout the fall. It's a solid addition to their release schedule with a projected performance similar to the $1.8 million earned by the Sony Classics' Mexican soccer comedy Rudo Y Cursi and larger audiences via DVD. It's also good enough to serve as a quality calling card for López, a director whose talent for female comedy should not go unnoticed.

Distributor: Maya Entertainment
Cast: Maya Zapata, Daniela Schmidt, Diana Garcia, Ana Layevska, Julio Bracho, Patricia Llaca
Director/Screenwriter: Issa López
Producer: Luz Mar’a Rojas
Rating: PG-13 for mature sexual content, language and thematic material
Running time: 107 min.
Release Date: August 21 NY/LA/SD/Miami

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