Casi Divas (Almost Divas) (PG-13) **

A scene from Casi Divas.

By Rene Rodriguez, The Miami Herald

A shrill and gaudy comedy about the quest for celebrity, the Mexican import Casi Divas (Almost Divas) begins when Alejandro (Julio Bracho), the producer of a popular telenovela, decides to boost the show’s sagging ratings by adapting it into a feature film but without its temperamental star, Eva (Patricia Llaca).

Alejandro instead announces a nationwide search for a fresh face to star in the film, with the competition to be televised in weekly installments, a la American Idol. Writer-director Issa Lopez focuses on four of the thousands of young women who show up at the initial cattle call, each based on a specific stereotype: The rural, dirt-poor bumpkin (Maya Zapata); the spoiled rich princess (Ana Layeska); the working-class, street-smart hairdresser (Daniela Schmidt), and the stoic factory worker (Diana Garcia) from Juarez, where women have long been routinely kidnapped and either vanish forever or are later found murdered.

The multitude of characters gives Casi Divas plenty of storylines to juggle, including the world-class termagant Eva’s fury at being recast, which she takes out on Alejandro, her former lover. The movie never lacks for energy, and the characters’ various backgrounds allow Casi Divas to incorporate some social commentary and dramatic subplots into its broad satire.

But the movie is played at such a consistently high key the comedy quickly becomes grating, and the dehumanizing way in which the industry hotshots treat the no-name wannabes feels more cruel than amusing. Casi Divas does boast a more developed plot than the premise might suggest, including a jaw-dropping twist absolutely no one will see coming. But the film ultimately resembles the telenovelas it lampoons a little too closely: Overheated, overdone and quick to resort to heavy-handed stereotypes that already seemed offensive a decade ago.

Cast: Patricia Llaca, Julio Bracho, Maya Zapata, Ana Layeska, Diana Garcia, Daniela Schmidt.

Writer-director: Issa Lopez

Producer: Luz Maria Rojas.

A Maya Entertainment release. Running time: 107 minutes. In Spanish with English subtitles. Vulgar language, sexual situations, adult themes. In Miami-Dade only: South Beach, Aventura, CocoWalk, Dolphin.


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