“Sundown”

LOUISA:  2 STARS MATT:  2 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

“Sundown” successfully includes all of the elements of a long line of classic spring break comedies that it’s obviously attempting to emulate. The movie shows massive promise at the beginning and takes off with lots of original jokes and solid laughs, but it ultimately fizzles out and becomes a bit of a bore.

High school senior and aspiring EDM dj Logan (Devon Werkheiser) is in love with crush Lina (Sara Paxton). When he discovers Lina is headed down to Mexico for spring break week, his goofy buddy / sidekick Blake (Sean Marquette) convinces him to go after her. What follows is an extended semi-madcap tourism commercial for Puerto Vallarta.

This is a Mexican made movie all the way, and it’s a worthy entry into the country’s cinematic playbook. Director (and co-writer) Fernando Lebrija has a visual style that works for this type of story, and I appreciated his clever uses of camera tricks to disguise what must have been a relatively small budget.

Lots of things really do work in the movie. First, local taxi driver Chuy (Silverio Palacios) is absolutely delightful. He’s funny and bubbly with a huge personality. Chuy knows everyone in town (he calls most people “my cousin”), and this newfound friendship is critical to the story. Marquette is perfect as the oversexed, wacky best friend and is quite likable. Teri Hatcher and John Michael Higgins show up to add some mild comic relief as Logan’s mom and dad.

To keep things moving, our horny heroes find themselves in all sorts of random and amusing situations: crossing paths with a gangster, taking a she-male home from a club, sleeping in a hotel supply closet, screeching through the streets of Old Town Vallarta in a high speed chase, and carrying out a dog napping.

When Logan has an encounter with stripper Gaby (Camilla Belle) at a nightclub, the story shifts into a (sort of) crime caper over a missing Rolex watch. The story isn’t bad and there’s a lot to keep audiences entertained, but the film greatly suffers from a draggy run time (it clocks in at 100 minutes but feels like it’s 3 hours long). There’s way too much filler in the form of big booty girls dancing in bikinis, wild drinking parties, and an ear-splitting EDM soundtrack (watch for celeb dj cameos from Steve Aoki and Paul Oakenfold). The soundtrack is legit and the music is good, but my ears were ringing when I left the theater.

This is a hard R comedy with lots of nudity and sex (and more than a few gross out moments). You can’t escape the comparisons to “The Hangover” trilogy,  “Road Trip” or “Porky’s,” but “Sundown” sadly doesn’t quite reach any real moments of greatness. As far as aspiring dj movies go, it’s way better than last year’s Zac Efron debacle “We Are Your Friends.”

I can’t finish this review without scolding the filmmakers for the unnecessary extended cockfighting scene. I had to shut my eyes for a good 3 minutes so I didn’t actually watch it, but I have a horrible suspicion that it was real footage of a real fight. That’s animal cruelty, folks, no matter how much you try to defend it as a “cultural” experience.

(To report suspected cockfighting in your area, please contact your local police department).

MATT SAYS:

A movie in the tradition of teen road comedies “Road Trip” and “Sex Drive,” “Sundown” is also a love letter to electronic dance music (EDM) and the Mexican resort town of Puerto Vallarta.

Logan (Devon Werkheiser) and Blake (Sean Marquette) are sex-obsessed teens in their senior year of high school. After learning that Logan’s crush, Lina (Sara Paxton), is heading to Puerto Vallarta for Spring Break, the guys book a last-minute trip to follow her. Upon arriving, they meet up with local Chuy (Silverio Palacios) who knows everyone in PV and acts as a guide and a go-between for Logan and Blake. After spending a night with the mysterious Gaby (Camilla Belle) at a local dance club, Logan finds himself mixed up with local crime boss Dorian (Jordi Molla) and must figure out a way to extricate himself from an increasingly complicated situation he clearly wasn’t prepared for.

Starting out strong, “Sundown” loses significant momentum in the second act – when Logan tracks down Lina at a local dance club. With a soundtrack curated by Paul Oakenfold, the film spends significant screen time on Logan’s obsession with EDM in general and features multiple cameos including superstar DJs Oakenfold, Steve Aoki, and Adrian Lux. As a result, EDM fans may find much to love about “Sundown,” but for those of us who care about such thing as pacing and plot, the extended dance club scenes (where virtually nothing of significance happens) are a chore to sit through.

The actors are all good enough at what they do to carry the film. Werheiser and Marquette have a good chemistry and Palacios is enjoyable as their spirit guide. As they play, run, and careen through the streets of Puerto Vallarta, we are treated to multiple helicopter shots showing the city – which is a treat for fans of the seaside resort but may play a bit too much as an extended commercial for those who are not. Although the rest of the movie is innocuous enough, a lengthy sequence at a cockfight is upsetting for animal lovers as it unsuccessfully attempts to walk the line between celebration and condemnation of the brutal game.

While it has its enjoyable moments, “Sundown” just isn’t good enough to recommend.

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