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This year's Fort Lauderdale Film Festival kicks off with a week on South Beach

Worse, Gallagher use some of the most obvious stereotypes in a desperate ploy for comic relief. When Mac recalls meeting Peggy's haughty Spanish family, the resultant flashback manages to be not only lame but absurd, another crude depiction of Latins as brutes, albeit wealthy ones. Gallagher then opts to balance this scene with another flashback of Peggy's visit to Mac's raucous family meal, in which every conceivable Italian cliché is tossed about, as in an Olive Garden commercial.

If Gallagher were deliberately trying to skewer stereotypes and force his audience to think, he'd have to be given credit. But Blue Moon isn't Bamboozled and Gallagher is not Spike Lee, nor is he trying to be. He is aiming to deliver a heartfelt comedy/drama. The comedy feels strained, with some arch one-liners and typical set pieces. The drama relies on painful revelations, though they seem pretty routine. But there are certain moments when Gallagher achieves the lyricism for which he's clearly aiming. In the still of the night, Frank looks at Peggy, the young woman he married, and asks her to dance as Maggie dances with Mac, the boy of her dreams. It's a memorable scene, one that could and should have been paired with many others.

There's another problem, which is simple plot logic. When Frank and Maggie wake up the morning after their fateful encounter, there's no explanation of what happened or even if they both recall what happened. And what about Mac and Peggy? Will they wake up and recall encountering their older selves? Or are they merely figments of Frank and Maggie's dreams? The sudden, jarring jump bears the signs of radical editing, the need for which one can only guess at. Nevermind that the film flies off to Paris for a love scene, complete with poses in front of that city's landmarks. The scenery is lovely, the music swells, but by the strained look on Gazzara's face, there's a sense, most likely unintentional, that something is missing. - Ronald Mangravite

Here come the brides, to Herman, U.S.A.
Here come the brides, to Herman, U.S.A.
Here come the brides, to Herman, U.S.A.
Here come the brides, to Herman, U.S.A.

Details

Herman, U.S.A. screens at 3:00 p.m. Sunday, October 22; Bro screens 9:00 p.m. Wednesday, October 18, and Friday, October 20, at Regal South Beach Cinema, 1100 Lincoln Rd, Miami Beach; 305-373-1562. The films also will be shown numerous times, along with Blue Moon, at the main venue, Galleria Cinema, 2630 E Sunrise Blvd, Fort Lauderdale, between November 1 and 12; call 800-745-4621.

Bro
Jerry Seinfeld had a huge hit with a television show about nothing. Success, though, didn't blind him to the limitations of that concept. Jerry figured out that what works small doesn't always work big, and what'll fly for half an hour won't necessarily carry an audience for 90 minutes (anyone see the series finale?). The comedian just didn't have the cojones to make Seinfeld: The Movie. Enter Joe Cardona and Mario de Varona; collectively, Kids in Exile Films.

Their latest release, Bro, concerns three thirtysomething friends living in Miami. The characters should be eerily familiar to anyone who's owned a TV set in the past ten years. Dom (Bill Teck), the tall, crazy one, is a n'er-do-well schemer with no visible means of support (and, like Kramer, probably smokes illegally imported Cuban cigars, but I'm only speculating). Max (David Fisher) is short, fat, wears glasses, and lives with his mother. He works as a projectionist at a mall movie theater, but claims to be (no, not an architect) an aspiring filmmaker. Not that this helps him with the ladies. No, his one shot at romance in the film is foiled when he finds out the object of his affection, Julie (Carmen Nicole) is -- of all things -- a lesbian from New York City. ¡Ay, Costanza! Finally there's Santi (Luis Garcia), the model and aspiring actor who, though not as funny as Jerry, would look really great in a puffy pirate shirt. He lives with a high-maintenance Cuban-American princess named, not Elaine, but Lilly (Ivette Sotomayor).

For reasons never fully explained, Max and Santi entrust their savings to Dom, who claims he has an angle that's finally going to pay off. While the three wait for their ship to come in, they begin to take stock of their lives and their relationships to one another. Dom is hurt because Santi and he just don't connect anymore. They don't talk. Not like they used to. Santi advises Max to stop letting women walk all over him. Dom and Max both tell Santi that he's just not ready to move out to Los Angeles to pursue his acting career. Oh, and Dom is secretly sleeping with Lilly, but of course he's not going to tell Santi. They don't talk anymore. But he'll tell him before the movie ends.

The climax of the film (and one of its few actual plot points) occurs when the three friends discover that Dom's hunch was right: They're rich. Or, they would have been, if Dom had invested their money in the scheme instead of using it to pay back a loan from a tough-talking sports-memorabilia collector who employs a heavily tattooed, knife-wielding enforcer. Damn, bro.

No matter. They've discovered what really counts: their friendship and their dreams. Max will make a movie anyway. And give Dom a part in it, to boot. Santi moves out to California to become an actor. The three will someday make movies together.

This is Cardona and de Varona's second feature film. Their first, Mud, Water, and Factories (1999) was a Cuban-American coming-of-age story set in Hialeah, steeped in the same culture of nostalgia that fueled the pair's PBS documentaries (including Adios Patria, Café con Leche, and Havana: Portrait of Yesteryear). At the time Miami Herald critic Rene Rodriguez wrote that Mud, Water, and Factories suffered from stock characters who were given nothing interesting to display except their Cubanness. He was not alone in his criticism. The film was rejected for the Miami Film Festival last spring.

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