The Argentinian cute-kid picture "Valent“n" tries much too hard to make us love its precocious, parentless protagonist.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
The Argentinian film "Valent’n" draws as its influences the feel-good foreign fantasy of "Amˇlie" and the boyish, art house appeal of "Kolya." But the filmmakers moreover writer and director Alejandro Agresti have placed all their eggs in one basket, focusing almost exclusively on the one-note charms and affability of its diminutive star, Rodrigo Noya. As presented, Agresti might simply have slapped the word "cuco" (cute) on Noya's forehead since, with his cross-eyed astigmatism, heavy, thick-framed glasses, and penchant for profanity, Valent’n pretty much demands that you adore him from the get-go.
Unfortunately, Valent’n isn't as cute as he or director Agresti thinks he is, and without much substance beyond the lovable lug's space-cadet antics, the film quickly becomes tiresome, even joyless.
|Written and directed by: Alejandro Agresti.|
Cast: Julieta Cardinali, Carmen Maura, Jean Pierre Noher, Mex Urtizberea, Rodrigo Noya, Alejandro Agresti, Carlos Roffˇ, Lorenzo Quinteros, Marina Glezer, Stˇfano Di Gregorio, Fabi‡n Vena.
Cinematography: Jose Luis Cajaraville.
Edited by: Alejandro Brodersohn.
In Spanish with English subtitles.
Related links: Official site | Argentinian site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
Valent’n lives with his paternal grandmother in a Buenos Aires apartment. His grandpa is dead, and both his mother and father have abandoned him, the former for better men, the latter simply because he cannot raise a son and date women at the same time, although he hopes one might eventually become Valent’n's stepmother (as does Valent’n, especially if she's a blonde).
The world is seen and told through the eyes of this precocious eight-year-old, often times in voiceover. Valent’n, who builds model rocketships, longs to be an astronaut, even though Argentina doesn't officially have a space program. (Valent’n smartly observes that Yuri Gagarin was probably also talked out of becoming a cosmonaut when he was a kid.) Like Audrey Tautou's Amˇlie, Noya's Valent’n acts as a catalyst, inciting change, influencing those with whom he comes into contact, whether it be his doting grandmother (a solid Carmen Maura of "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown"), a piano teacher from across the street (Mex Urtizberea), or his doltish father's latest flame, the pretty and pretty blonde Leticia (Julieta Cardinali), whom Valent’n quickly befriends.
With few adults seemingly capable of doing it for him, Valent’n starts taking control of his own life by whatever means necessary in an attempt to restore some kind of unity to his fractured existence. The film is a light contrivance at best, without the depth or the smarts of those aforementioned films with which it will undoubtedly be compared. And while it threatens to build up to something, maybe even something significant, it just sort of ends, leaving our pipsqueak matchmaker just as cross-eyed and painless as before.|
Cupid might have just turned eight, as the film's tag line entices, but that doesn't make him any less annoying.
|MAY 25, 2004|
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