El Cantante

Release Date: August 3, 2007
Limited release

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The past few years have seen music biopics re-emerge as durable Hollywood hits. They’re typically a safe bet for studios because they follow a traditional formula and promote themselves as being “based on a true story,” which is a strong selling point for credibility and dramatic appeal. With the back-to-back financial and critical successes of Ray and Walk the Line, which grossed $75 million and $120 million, respectively, and garnered Oscar wins for its leads, other studios were inspired to cash in onthe latest profitable trend.

Picturehouse will release El Cantante (translated as The Singer), based on the life of Puerto Rican singer Hector Lavoe, who helped pioneer salsa music during the 1960s and 70s. Marc Anthony portrays Hector and Jennifer Lopez plays his wife, Puchi (Lopez also served as the film's producer).

Lavoe’s story certainly seems worth telling. Salsa has not only become a popular and prideful form of music and dancing for the Latin American community, but it has broken cultural barriers to become a widely accepted American pastime. Just as Ray Charles and Johnny Cash redefined blues and country, Lavoe fueled salsa with emotion, realism and a strong bond between singer and audience.

But despite his significance in music history, how many mainstream moviegoers are even aware of Lavoe’s existence? Ray Charles and Johnny Cash were legendary and popular, with distinct looks and personalities, which gave Ray and Walk the Line an advantage of public awareness. Lavoe isn’t
as well known, which will make selling El Cantante that much harder.

Another hurdle the movie faces is making Lavoe’s personal life distinguishable from other biopic subjects. Audiences may experience déjà vu when they find Lavoe is yet another music artist who experienced relationship problems with his parents, succumbed to substance abuse and had multiple affairs that tested his marriage. These conflicts are nothing new to biopic plots and audiences may decide they’ve had enough.

Still, Picturehouse is an independent-style studio keener on telling original, offbeat stories than mainstream ones. The trailer for El Cantante may not do the movie justice. With strong word-of-mouth and critical acclaim, which will play a big role in audience’s decision to see it, not to mention the added publicity of real-life husband and wife Anthony and Lopez starring on-screen together, the movie could become a modest hit. But its summer release and relatively small marketing campaign will likely prevent it from having a chance to join the Oscar club like its fellow biopic brethren. (Matthew Huntley/BOP)

Vital statistics for El Cantante
Main Cast Jennifer Lopez, Marc Antony, Federico Castelluccio
Supporting Cast Romi Dias, Vincent Laresca
Director Leon Ichaso
Screenwriter Todd Antony Bello, David Darmsteder, Leon Ichaso
Distributor Picturehouse
Trailer Click Here for Trailer
Official Site http://www.elcantantemovie.com/
Rating R
Screen Count 542
Also see Tom Houseman reviews El Cantante
Talent in red has entry in The Big Picture



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