Immigration Tango (Rated R, for language and some sexual content) Dir: David Burton Morris
This film opens Friday, February 18th in selected theaters in LA and Orange County: Laemmle’s Monica 4 Plex in Santa Monica, AMC Burbank Town Center 8 in Burbank, and at the AMC Block 30 in Orange.
Directed by David Burton Morris (Price of Love), Immigration Tango is a romantic comedy that centers around two couples. Elena (Elika Portnoy) is a Russian immigrant studying in Miami with hopes of staying in America and working. She and her Columbian boyfriend Carlos (Carlos Leon) are best friends with an American couple-Betty (Ashley Wolfe), a law student, and Mike (McCaleb Burnett), a doctoral candidate in literature. When Elena and Carlos find out they may have to be deported, the two couples switch partners and get married, with an understanding that they will divorce once they’ve satisfied the two year probationary period. Problems crop up, however, when they are under investigation by an immigration enforcement agent, as well as trying to keep appearances to their family members, along with the tension and jealousy arising between the couples.
Perhaps this film might have worked better as a drama. As a comedy, it’s not particularly innovative. The characters here are the types you’ve seen in romantic comedies countless of times-mixture of dull characters and two-dimensional caricatures. The plot here isn’t new-it’s a dash of TV’s Trading Spouses, I Married Dora, and other films/shows that involve switching places, while having to keep up appearances to the friends and neighbors. Or, every other episode of Three’s Company.
Much of the humor here is standard fluff, mostly cheesy and heavy-handed, and predictable-it’s akin to a standard live-action Disney film, but not for kids. It isn’t big on subtlety. Nor is wit the film’s dialogue’s strong point. Any possibility of intelligent humor or informed thought that may have spawned from this film is downgraded to the basic cliché’s, slapstick, and familiar foreign accents. Add to that the occasional (and poorly executed) Benny Hill-inspired fast-motion effects accompanied by jazz music, and you know you’re in for some truly “sophisticated” humor.
On the plus side, Carlos Leon does bring much energy to his Columbian character, Carlos Sanchez. True, he’s a stereotype and his dialogue is uninspired, playing out his “Latin Lover” shtick, but he is still likeable in his excess. Elika Portnoy is charming as Carlos’ Russian girlfriend, Elena Dubrovnik, who lives with him on a boat. She likes to swim naked in the morning, which is normal in her country (right?). Still, her character has less of a degree of cynicism, which makes her more likeable than the rest of the cast.
The two American characters come off generic. McCaleb Burnett has the typical male role as the underachieving Mike White. His live-in girlfriend and would-be lawyer Betty Bristol played by Ashley Wolfe comes off mostly shrill and unnatural. Mike and Betty never come off nearly as interesting as Carlos and Elena. In fact, it’s hard to understand what made them close friends at all-their interests and personalities seem incompatible. Admittedly, once the switch happens, there is some amount of chemistry between Mike and Elena, but the tension (or friendship) between Ashley and Carlos comes off mostly artificial.
The film, overall, is an average romantic comedy. It’s probably not helped by its lack of star power and good dialogue. The film’s bright spot is perhaps Elika Portnoy and her more-convincing-than-normal performance. When she falls for Mike, we actually believe she feels this way, despite Mike’s blandness as a character.
** out of **** stars