Friday, April 3, 2009

The Mambo Kings

Title: "The Mambo Kings" (1992)
Genre: Drama
Rating: R (for sensuality)
Length of Time: 104 mins

What is it about?: Cesar (Armand Assante) and Nestor (Antonio Banderas) are brothers with extraordinary music talent. They dream of coming to America to make it big after being driven from Havana, Cuba due to a conflict with a club owner, who also stole Nestor's girl, Maria.

Once they arrive in New York, they mingle in the hottest club circles and are enticed by beautiful women, money, fame, and their desire to play music. Nestor writes a song about his unforgotten love and it gets them the notoriety they dreamed of, even the opportunity to appear on an episode of "I Love Lucy". Throughout it all, Cesar is afraid of falling into another trap with a greedy club owner and Nestor is unable to get over his love for Maria.

Cesar is also holding onto a secret that unravels Nestor once it is known. They find out the hard way that their love and support for each other are more important than any brotherly feud.

The movie is based on the Pulitzer prize-winning book, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love by Oscar Hijuelos.

My Review: 3/5 Stars. It's not a great or bad movie... just relatively good. It's ironic that the brothers had dreams of coming to America because the opening scene reminded me of the movie "Coming To America", starring Eddie Murphy. In fact, a few other movies came to mind as I watched-- "The Cotton Club" and "Harlem Nights", just to name a few.

Both Assante and Banderas deliver outstanding performances. It should also be noted that this was Banderas's first American movie and he learned to speak English in order to do it. Although the initial Cuban to English subtitles were imperfect translations, there was nothing lacking in Banderas's English-speaking.

Assante pulled off a witty, high-energy elder brother. My favorite line of his in the movie: "If she cooks like she walks, I'm gonna lick her plate".

What really bothered me about this movie was Maruschka Detmers playing Delores. I had to remind myself that an average-looking and acting woman had to be cast for this role in order for us to believe that Banderas, although with Delores, would still be unable to get his beloved Maria out of his head. BUT, Delores had absolutely no personality and it was unbelievable that he would fall for her in the first place.

The mambo music was entertaining... The appearances of many other well-recognizable actors and musicians (like Desi Arnaz, Jr., and Tito Puente) were interesting... The Cuban accents were sexy... The movie was alitte humorous, a little sad, and little inspirational... Not bad.

My Recommendation: Overall it's a fun movie that should entertain you. So, I say "Watch it" if you have some time to spare, but don't break your neck trying to (unless you are an avid Assante or Banderas fan OR you love mambo music). Just so you know-- my husband thought it deserved 4/5 stars, so you may find it a tad more enjoyable than I did.


  1. ill try to check this out, it got me curious.I love armand assante and antonio banderas and i also love mambo music or cuban music.

  2. I think I've seen this, but it didn't make a strong impression on me, so I guess I felt about it like you did.

  3. nice other blog you have here. you should check out my movie blog

    I loved Mambo Kings, but I'm a little biased being a lover of mambo and a trumpet player (that scene where Nestor bangs his agaisnt the wall was paionful for me)

    I agree with you about Dolores. I also wish we could have had more Maria, but otherwise this movie is pretty good, not great, but good.