The stylized yet uncomplicated direction eases the simple plot along through shifts from everyday life to staged performances to fantasy song and dance sequences, with less artifice than the heightened reality traditions its draws on. The wide variety of music is the background, foreground and center of the tale, touching on the varied tastes but united ambitions of most of the characters, which is to find the rhythm and beat of what suits them and play it strong. There are some clichés to the story, but no falsely comedic or dramatic exaggerations. It stays true to the idea of the simple everyday struggle to be seen and heard and appreciated for who you are, and to sing about it.
Though a tad old for the role, John Leguizamo uses his awkward appeal well as Antonio, a Mexican musician trying to make it in the eclectic Los Angeles Latino music scene where the old, the new, the experimental, the tried-and-true, and even the soon to be forgotten, form a lively mélange of sound and sensibility. Elizabeth Pena has a flamboyant naturalism as his neighbor, Mirabela, who regains confidence in her full-bodied singing talent, and Ana Claudia Talancon is charming as his girlfriend, Nina, who learns to let joy seep through her sense of responsibility. Starring John Leguizamo, Elizabeth Pena and Ana Claudia Talancon. Directed and written by Renee Chabria. Produced by Marc Forster and Eric Kopeloff. A Destination release. Musical. Rated PG-13 for some strong language. Running time: 108 min