Mad About Mambo

Well, here’s a movie I never thought I’d be watching, much less writing about.  But the other night, my wife and I were looking for something to watch, and I came across this on my DVD shelf.  Someone left it behind for us years ago, and the right combination of boredom and bad TV programming finally came together, and we checked it out. 

I don’t know if I’m just getting less and less discriminating, but I found myself enjoying the movie a fair bit.  But then, how could anyone not enjoy a film about an Irish footballer from the wrong side of the tracks who tries (and succeeds!) to improve his game by studying Samba dancing?  And then fall in love with the beautiful but haughty dancer with a chip on her shoulder whose father is also from the wrong side of the tracks, and whose snobby boyfriend and current dance partner is also the head of another, better, football club?  And then accidentally puts the boyfriend out of action during a “friendly” game, and has to replace him as the partner of the girl that he is determined to win in the big dance competition that she is determined to win?

So, yes, there are lots of points of obviousness here.  And there is a ridiculous scene where the main characters dance in their underwear in a swimming pool (I’m not making this up, unfortunately).  But there is a fun energy to the lead performance by William Ash, and the basic motivations of the main characters are pretty simple but easy to relate to.  Keri Russell (who was appearing on TV in Felicity at the time) is fine as Lucy, the female lead, though her Irish accent seems a bit weak.  (But then I’m not Irish, so what do I know?)

I think the fact that the film is set in Belfast with Protestant-Catholic tensions and British soldiers as part of the landscape helps to increase the interesting factor of the movie – a sort of “it’s foreign so it’s exotic” feel, even though the story beats are of course very familiar.  One plus is that the neither of the two moments that seem the most obvious – the big dance competition and the main character’s football trial with the professional team – turn out to be the climax of the movie.  (The actual climax is just as hokey, but it’s got a grandeur to it that neither of those other options would have accomplished).

So I liked this movie in spite of myself.  Maybe I wouldn’t have if I had paid any money for it.  Or maybe I was just won over by one pretty funny line at the start.  You know, the one where one of the supporting characters, the young hothead, says something like, “After I finish school, I want to be a missionary.  You know, traveling around and killing people for money.”

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