Carnival in Costa Rica DVD Review: An Endless Unfunny Rom-Com Musical

A movie full of Caucasian Ricans and a hero who looks like frickin' Matthew Lillard.
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In case it has slipped past both your central and peripheral paths of vision in recent years, the residents of the United States of America don't really care for its neighbors beneath it. Apparently, they feel they're, well - beneath them. Canadians? Kosher - so long as they don't talk politics or health care. Mexicans? Never. Not in a million years. Who cares if they do all of the menial tasks most of the USA's own citizens feel are a tad too tedious: they still don't like them. And that goes doubly so for those lazy, happy-go-lucky Costa Ricans - who are something of the subject of the awful 1947 Twentieth Century Fox Technicolor romantic comedy musical, Carnival in Costa Rica. Note how I say they are "something of the subject" - this is because there's nary an actual Costa Rican in the entire dreadful picture.

Yes, the movie takes place in Costa Rica. Well, actually, most of the "locals" in the feature refer to it as "Cahsta Rica" - so this might technically be some mythological country I've never heard of. They also have a hard time speaking Spanish, saying things like "seen-yor" instead of "seƱor." But that's mostly attributable to the fact that most of this Costa Rica's inhabitants are, in fact, as white as sour cream. The movie features a few bona fide Hispanic folk, such as Cesar Romero - who takes third billing as Pepe Castro: the carefree son of a prominent family, whose father (Pedro de Cordoba, who was actually French/Cuban) wishes him to marry Luisa (Vera-Ellen), the suspiciously whiter-than-white daughter of the Molina clan, which is led by J. Carrol Naish - who was of Irish descent.

Pepe, however, wishes to marry his American girlfriend, Celeste (Celeste Holm), so he pretends to be a total drip to Luisa. She buys it, of course, because she's not an American, and is quite gullible on account of her nasty ethnic blood. After nearly forty minutes of god-awful dancing and songs that wouldn't even pass as filler in the worst Marx Brothers film, our lead (American) character decides to show up: a feller by the name of Dick Haymes. Sadly, that actually is the poor guy's real name; his character in the movie is called Jeff Stephens. But both of those useless tidbits of information are as extraneous as the Caucasian Ricans who don all kinds of gay colors to celebrate the never-ending fiesta Costa Rica throws 24/7 (I mean, we all know they don't work, right?) since our hero looks like frickin' Matthew Lillard.

Once Jeff meets and falls for Luisa, he resorts to serenading her in a (ahem) "traditional" Costa Rican manner. And it is here that I wish to invoke my right to use the timeless saying "A picture is worth a thousand words" and present you with this fine image:

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Yeah. That pretty much covers it, folks.

Basically, Carnival in Costa Rica is an unfunny musical that doesn't have enough dignity to grace its tortured viewers with a conclusion in a timely enough fashion. I was literally screaming "It won't end! It won't end!" towards the finale of the feature, much to the shock and utter amusement of my teenaged offspring - one of whom sat there suffering with me the whole way through. The movie also can't seem to figure out who its main characters are: aside from the previously mentioned annoyance (though it might have been saving grace, come to think of it) that the top-billed performer couldn't bother to show up in time, the movie all but abandons its star couple as the film comes to a conclusion - focusing instead on the painfully dire comedic pairing of Pedro de Cordoba and J. Carrol Naish, who are joined in part by another non-indigenous Costa Rican, German-born funnyman Fritz Feld.

Seriously, the end of the movie is something culled right out of a really bad Mexican sitcom.

Also starring in this unforgettably forgettable lavishly lurid musical monstrosity from noted director Gregory Ratoff are Anne Revere (who is actually supposed to be an American living in Costa Rica) as the spouse of J. Carrol Naish, Barbara Whiting as their other whiter-than-white daughter, Tommy Ivo (their son), Italian-born Mimi Aguglia (as Romero's mum), William Edmunds as a native Costa Rican hotel waiter, and Nestor Paiva - one of the few authentic Hispanic fellows in the entire flick - as a constantly-cheerful priest. Fox brings us this whitewashed washout to DVD-R via its Manufactured-on-Demand library, the Fox Cinema Archives. On the plus side, the print used for this release is positively beautiful, and the mono soundtrack - though monotonous - comes through quite clearly.

Nevertheless, it's not enough for me to recommend Carnival in Costa Rica to anyone but xenophobic elderly folks who prefer their ethnic people to be as white as them.

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