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Movie Review

Ribald, Satiric 'Pantaleon' Overstays Its Welcome

September 27, 2002|KEVIN THOMAS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

"Pantaleon y las Visitadoras" is a sexy, exuberant (if overly long) tale that Peruvian director Francisco J. Lombardi and his writers have deftly adapted from a 1973 novel by their distinguished countryman Mario Vargas Llosa.

The film's Miami-based distributor, Venevision International, is clearly hoping to cash in on the crossover success of "Y Tu Mama Tambien." But while "Pantaleon" does have its scorching erotic moments and skewers establishment hypocrisy toward prostitution, it lacks the originality and complexity of "Y Tu Mama."

"Pantaleon" is an entertaining, ribald comedy that develops some dark and telling undertones. Capt. Pantaleon Pantoja (Salvador del Solar) is as impossibly handsome and clean-cut as he is the epitome of the dedicated and efficient career officer. He is therefore deemed perfect for the undercover assignment of organizing a group of prostitutes to be transported down the river into the Amazon jungle so the soldiers stationed there will stop targeting the local girls.

Pantoja is taken aback, but only momentarily, by the order he cannot refuse and teams up with a madam, Chuchupe (Pilar Bardem, mother of Oscar-nominated Javier Bardem), who's going broke, unable to compete with those local girls the troops either seduce or take by force. Quite rapidly, Pantoja has Chuchupe and her girls eagerly plying the waters to their profit and the army's.

Of course, it's all too good to be true. How can Pantoja's superiors expect the operation not to attract the attention of locals and the media? How can starting up and overseeing such an operation not exact a strain on Pantaleon's marriage to the demure Ponchita (Monica Sanchez), especially when the awesomely voluptuous and seductive Colombiana (Angie Cepeda) starts zeroing in on him?

Del Solar, in an admirable portrayal, takes Pantoja from a prim by-the-book type who develops empathy and respect for the brassy, good-hearted Chuchupe's hard-working girls and reveals himself to be a man of steadfast principle and conviction.

"Pantaleon" is a sure-fire mix of sex and broad satire, humor and hypocrisy, but with a running time of nearly 2 hours and 20 minutes, it's way too much of a good thing.

MPAA rating: R, for strong sexuality, nudity and language. Times guidelines. steamy and suggestive and decidedly adult.

'Pantaleon y las Visitadoras'

Salvador del Solar...Capt. Pantaleon Pantoja

Angie Cepeda...Colombiana

Pilar Bardem...Chuchupe

Aristoteles Picho...El Sincho

A Venevision International release of an America production, in association with Inca Films and Tornasol Film, in collaboration with Via Digital. Director Francisco J. Lombardi. Producers Jose Enrique Crousillat, Gerardo Herrero. Executive producer Gustavo Sanchez. Screenplay Giovanna Pollarolo, Enrique Moncloa; based on the novel by Mario Vargas Llosa. Cinematographer Teodoro Delgado. Editor Danielle Fillios. Music Bingen Mendizabal. Costumes Jose Miguel Valdivia. Art directors Alejandro Rossi, Alfredo Rossi. In Spanish, with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes.

In general release.

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