A filmed performance by writer-comedian Luis Caballero, interspersed with sketches, THE PUERTO RICAN MAMBO (NOT A MUSICAL) focuses on the stand-up comic's plight as a "little dark guy with an accent." Amusing and often incisive, Caballero, with another improvisational comedy veteran, Ben
Model, has created a funny film on a half-a-shoestring budget.
Filmed against a scrim, Caballero's performance posits the dilemma of the Puerto Rican as a vaguely defined ethnic group easily lost amid a welter of Hispanic groups including Mexicans, Dominicans, Panamanians and Hondurans. One of Caballero's running gags concerns the Western European appearance
of the performers and newscasters on Spanish-language TV--not surprising, since they are often from Argentina. He also sends up the stereotypes cherished by white New Yorkers, as in a sketch in which a department store manager announces over the PA system that, despite the presence of a Puerto
Rican browsing in the aisles, shoppers shouldn't panic. Another sketch spoofs the apparently widespread tendency to ask Puerto Ricans about drugs and how to get them. When he insists he doesn't sell drugs, claims Caballero, people ask him "What kind of Puerto Rican are you?"
Lamenting the failure of Puerto Ricans in the US to gain a significant footing in society (they don't even, for example, have their own Mafia), Caballero does boast of one exceptional national trait--the ability to go to the beach in style and to picnic anywhere. To illustrate these points, one of
the performers, Mike Robles, portrays a family head preparing for the beach with a U-Haul truck and a manifest list running into several pages. To prove his argument about picnicking, Caballero includes a documentary segment filmed in what looks like Brooklyn's Prospect Park of family groups
congregating around various makeshift barbecues.
The most ambitious and longest sequence is of a party attended by Caballero and his pal, Model, who make ridiculous small talk, punctuated by some hilarious set-pieces. Model, bespectacled with thinning hair, laments that women only talk to him to find out about their stereo sets, since he looks
like a dull, technically competent sort. In one conversation Model says he spent the day at the nearby Jewish Museum--in a display case. Later, he is shown literally boring a girl to the point where she collapses. Luis, on his part, makes tactless remarks about "big blonde women with beautiful
breasts" and angers one guest by telling him he could pass for Puerto Rican. Another guest, Paco (rising star John Leguizamo, credited as Johnny Leggs), boasts of his chameleon ability to blend in with any ethnic group, at which point he can then triumphantly announce that he is Puerto Rican.
Caballero and director Model have fashioned an amusing film, with the consistently gentle satire nicely handled by the ensemble company. Despite the limitations of both the budget and the performance styles, THE PUERTO RICAN MAMBO (NOT A MUSICAL) is a funny, honestly conceived and enacted
portrayal of one man's view of his ethnic group. (Profanity.)
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- Released: 1992
- Rating: NR
- Review: A filmed performance by writer-comedian Luis Caballero, interspersed with sketches, THE PUERTO RICAN MAMBO (NOT A MUSICAL) focuses on the stand-up comic's plight as a "little dark guy with an accent." Amusing and often incisive, Caballero, with another imp… (more)