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The Real Cancun

With the Internet, Girls Gone Wild tapes, and amateur Mardi Gras videos teeming with nubile exhibitionists, this may be a Golden Age for gleaming hardbodies, but one of the consequences is that gross inflation has caused skin to lose much of its erotic currency. So the idea of bringing an R-rated variation on MTV's The Real World to the big screen–complete with wet-T-shirt contests, body shots, and surveillance-cam hook-ups–has already lost most of its skanky cachet. As the expression goes, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" Save for the diminished allure of drunk, naked hotties, there's nothing of worth in The Real Cancun (or Pepsi Presents: Intercourse), which squeezes the spring-break adventures of 16 handpicked nitwits into 90 minutes of chaotic, borderline-experimental cinema. Never has the word "real" been more of a misnomer: Shot in the days leading up to America's invasion of Iraq and rushed to theaters a month later, the film exists in a bubble within a bubble, isolating its cast in a beachside hotel away from the other tourists, who already believe that the only Mexicans in Mexico are the ones serving them tequila shooters. Neither liberators nor occupiers, the Real Cancun cast shuttles around to "Hot Body" contests, bungee-jumping platforms, and other excursions during the day, then hits the clubs for binge-drinking and bump-and-grind at night, culminating in a send-off performance by Snoop Dogg. Along with director Rick de Oliveira, producers Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray try to replicate their tried-and-true Real World formula, carefully casting the best-looking narcissists from colleges across the country. But with twice the cast members as the TV show and a fraction of the time to develop them, The Real Cancun lacks the petty soap-opera twists that make the series compulsively watchable. Loosely connected by abrupt editing wipes (complete with whoosh sounds), a synergistic pop soundtrack, and countless helicopter establishing shots, The Real Cancun contains a few storylines, though only one makes much of an impression. A lamb among wolves, Alan arrives in Cancun as an enthusiastic naïf from Texas, so prudish about drinking and girls that he'd be unfit to attend a beach party in a Frankie Avalon/Annette Funicello movie, much less fraternize with the leaky brainpans chatting about jock size and astrology. Will he hold out for good, or bury himself in the nearest navel? At odd moments, The Real Cancun seems keenly aware of its characters' vacuousness: In one highlight, an acoustic folkie sings a sincere lament for the '80s ("the best decade in history") that rivals the work of the reactionary tunesmith in Tim Robbins' Bob Roberts. But, true to formula, Bunim and Murray back away from parody and hail the conquering hedonists of Spring Break 2003, by all appearances the most depressing spring break ever.

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