Girl from Rio
aka, CHICA DE RIO. 2001
Director: Christopher Monger

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

I sat down to watch Girl from Rio (Chica de Rio, 2001) because it had Hugh Laurie in it, though nothing in its promotion promised more than a (gak, ptui) love story.

Hugh plays Raymond Wood, a London banking office nerd who dreams of the samba & southern climates while counting & handling millions of dollars each day. And already just about every element of the plot that's about to unfold can be guessed.

Girl from RioHe's facing a miserable Christmas with a cuckholding shrew of a wife (Lia Williams). But he does have one joy in his life, teaching a samba & drum class at night, a secret even from his wife.

When his wife runs off with his boss (Patrick Barlow) at the bank -- on Christmas yet -- the time seems right to just load up on some of the bank's money & head off on a quest for happiness in South America.

It's not a bad premise & Laurie's got the tone of this sort of character captured pretty well. But what passes for jokes in this tale are simply horrible. Joke: Someone sees hiim dancing with an imaginary partner. That's the whole joke.

Another "joke": In Rio de Janeiro, his greasy "comic relief" cabbie Paulo (Santiago Segura) drives too fast. That's the whole joke. The script just never skips an opportunity for a missfiring gag.

At last Ray gets to meet salsa queen Orlinda (gorgeous model & would-be actress Vanessa Nunes). He had fallen in love with her having seeing her on his salsa videos back home.

Paulo helped him find entry into Rio's salsa geekdom & suddenly there he is standing in front of Orlinda. Since the film is also about the dance, it was massively important to have the worst possible choreography & show Ray dancing most crappily.

He sure should've known it, but Ray never guesses that the only possible reason a foreign geek like himself would be able to get her into bed so easily is so he can be robbed.

Next morning, his dream-girl is gone, along with all that money he stole. He's stranded & flat broke in Rio, with only greasy Paulo as a friend.

Since there's a prissy old Latino gangster (Nelson Xavier), there's a chihuahua to hold & pet (again, that's the whole "joke. " Xavier can be a very fine character actor, given an actual role, but for this he has precious little to do.

The gangster provides the plot with someone who deserves to get ripped off in Ray's dream of gettng rich again. It will all go increasingly slapstick without quite getting funny, heading to a merely lucky ending with the gangsters' millions raining down over a slum. Hugh Laurie should be ashamed of himself.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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