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Review: Bella

Bella might have been called Estado Jardín if it didn’t take place in and around Manhattan.

1.5
Bella
Photo: Roadside Attractions

Scored to a relentless mix of Spanish and English pop anthems, cut like a Grudge freak-out, and performed with all the gusto of a Chespirito skit, Bella might have been called Estado Jardín if it didn’t take place in and around Manhattan. The dubious juxtaposition of past and present that opens the film raises the question: How does the hot guy from Chasing Papi go from being a champion soccer player to sitting on a beach gawking at little girls? Given the length of his facial hair, Jose (Eduardo Verástegui) obviously has baggage, but it’s necessary to endure a cruel barrage of sappy butterfly imagery, dubious evocations of “New York moments,” and one laughable spectacle of cultural immersion before it’s completely unpacked. Until the especially maudlin final reel, this much is clear: that Jose’s inability to shave has something to do with a blond moppet glimpsed in suspiciously black-and-white video footage recorded way back in the early 2000s. After his restauranteur brother, Manny (Manny Perez, vying for the title of the Latino Stepin Fetchit), fires Nina (Tammy Blanchard) from his chic eatery without asking why she was late, Jose sets his sights on her tummy-full of baby, but he is not so creepy as to not give the abortion-bound young woman something in return: After the prodigal son returns to his parents’ home, the whole family subjects Nina to violent fluctuations between adoration and admonishment. “Joy” is what Nina calls their borderline minstrelsy, when really it’s closer to the latest episode of Ugly Betty.

Cast: Eduardo Verástegui, Tammy Blanchard, Manny Perez, Ali Landry, Angélica Aragón, Jaime Tirelli, Ramón Rodríguez Director: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde Screenwriter: Alejandro Gomez Monteverde, Patrick Million, Leo Severino Distributor: Roadside Attractions Running Time: 91 min Rating: PG-13 Year: 2006 Buy: Video

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