EL SUPERSTAR: The UNLIKELY RISE OF JUAN FRANCES First-time director Amy French's musical mockumentary plays out like The Jerk meets Tommy set in East L.A. Juan Frances (Spencer John French, the filmmaker's brother and co-writer) is a pale, redheaded, mild-mannered gringo who's fully ingratiated himself in Mexican culture (no dual-identity problem here) thanks to his loving, adoptive mom, Nene (veteran Mexican-American actress Lupe Ontiveros), and stepdad E.J. (cult hero Danny Trejo). He speaks fluent Spanish, has visions of the Virgin of Guadelupe and plays soft ranchera music to the rest of his multicultural family, which include two money-hungry Persian brothers, Amir and Mahmood (Pej Vahdat and Sam Golzari), who run a cell phone kiosk at the Century City mall. He's even aligned himself with the downtrodden Latino immigrant who has to take on multiple jobs by working as a gardener, valet parking attendant and nanny. After Frances falls for a shady girlfriend and manager who help transform him from humble folk singer to crotch-grabbing reggaeton star, and then trick him into confronting his past, both the character and El Superstar lose their way. The movie, executive produced by Norman Lear and George Lopez, does a funnier job of teaching us about heredity vs. environment by deliberately piling on the stereotypes than by messing with evil music-biz cliches. (Siran Babayan) (Monica)
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