El Cantante Review
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Jennifer Lopez needs to fire a member of her notoriously gigantic entourage—because, clearly, someone’s giving her really bad advice. I’m guessing that the person who told her that Gigli would be a great career move is the same person who encouraged her to appear in El Cantante. And that person needs to be fired—and perhaps soundly beaten.

Based on a true story, El Cantante tells of the rise and fall of Hector Lavoe (Marc Anthony), the King of Salsa. After leaving Puerto Rico for New York in the early ‘60s, the talented singer is discovered almost right away—and he soon joins with Willie Colón (John Ortiz) to create a new sound called salsa. At the same time, he meets Puchi (Lopez), the beautiful New York girl who becomes his wife—and who stands by him as the glory days of salsa give way to the lean years of drug addiction, loss, and instability.

If I could only use one word to describe El Cantante, I would have to choose “dreadful.” It was so painful to watch that I often found myself hoping that Hector would get hit by a bus—just so it would end. Of course, then I remembered that Hector was a real person, and that made me feel guilty for wanting him to die—which, in turn, made me hate the movie that much more.

For the most part, though, El Cantante is an endless cycle of three things: Hector’s concerts, his drug abuse, and his near-death experiences. To his credit, Marc Anthony can sing, so the concert scenes aren’t bad. The music is, for the most part, quite good—and Anthony performs it well. But problems arise when Anthony is called upon to act. I’d hoped that the zombie-like countenance he usually displays in public was simply his way of making his wife look even better on the red carpet—and that it would all fall away once he got behind the camera. But, alas, Anthony is every bit as lifeless on screen as he is on the red carpet. Sadly, he isn’t even capable of expressing the limited emotions of a character who’s perpetually stoned. And his numerous close-ups are really quite unnecessary, since he only has one facial expression.

As for J-Lo, she’s the bright spot in the film. Believe it or not, she’s actually a talented actress—too talented, in fact, to appear in a film that was written and directed as poorly as this one. The story is weak and repetitive (not to mention uninteresting), and the directing is all over the place. But just as I’ll blame J-Lo’s makeup artist for the fact that, throughout the entire movie (which spans nearly 40 years), she never ages, I’ll also blame some unnamed member of her entourage for advising her to be in this film. Just to give her the benefit of the doubt. But don’t you go making the same mistake that J-Lo did—and make sure you steer clear of El Cantante.

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