Serious about comedy.

 

Home

Calendar

About Jester

Sketch & Solo Performances

Improv Performances

Film & TV

The Jester Interviews

Jester's Blog

Book reviews

Favorite links

Follow jestershash on Twitter

Facebook

 

The Rise and Fall of a Vanity Project

Mockumentary centered on unlikely Latino folksinger fails to get laughs

By Michael Shashoua / Editor-in-chief

El Superstar: The Unlikely Rise of Juan Frances,” an improvised comedy in the Christopher Guest ensemble film style, released on DVD last month, is something of an amateurish and odd attempt to match the style and dry wit of those ensemble pieces.

The star and co-writer Spencer John French, a pale and rotund presence, plays Juan Frances, a folk musician who at age 33 is living at home with his adopted Latino family. Right there, it seems like an odd premise, bordering on insensitive or mocking of Hispanic culture. It’s doubly odd that Norman Lear and George Lopez are the executive producers who championed this film’s release because both have expertly navigated race and class issues within comedy, on television mostly. The material they’re showcasing with this film doesn’t come close to their expertise, however, and doesn’t even seem all that influenced by their shows.

There is a lot of quirky dialogue spoken by French and the supporting cast, as the story of Juan Frances making it big in music, then getting too egotistical for his own good, and returning to his true roots, progresses. Only a few pieces of it really elicit laughs though, and a lot of it is, as alluded to before, a sub-par version of Christopher Guest dialogue that plays up how clueless the characters are about their own shortcomings.

The director and co-writer is Amy French, Spencer’s sister, and knowing that, it also seems that the film came together as something of a vanity production. As such, the craft and performances are choppy at times, with crowd scenes intercut for performances that are obviously lifted out of stock footage. Other supporting cast members seem to have come from the Frenches’ circle of friends, as a scheming manager is played by David Franco with a over-the-top cheesy toupee and mustache. Maria Esquivel, as Anjelica, Juan Frances’ girlfriend, is an energetic presence, but is stuck with a cliché character as defined by the Frenches. 

“El Superstar” is well-intentioned but misguided in its execution, and what is supposed to be funny in its plot and the performances comes off as mildly amusing at best. Its makers have taken the mockumentary format too readily and haven’t done enough with what they present in that style to warrant an audience. Unfortunately, despite some critical praise by others, “El Superstar” doesn’t really qualify as a cult favorite find.

 

   

     

Custom Search

                                                                  Feedback? Email michael.shashoua@jesterjournal.com.

                                                                                     © 2005-2017 Michael Shashoua