Miss Tacuarembo: Retro Musical Time Warp for Fans of Camp

An absurd Uruguayan musical, a religious parody, an homage to the '80s, and a fractured fairy tale all rolled into one, Miss Tacuarembó is a campy, colorful, disjointed romp designed for Reagan-era kids who grew up with a healthy appreciation for irony. In small-town, über-Catholic Uruguay in 1983, Natalia is an 8-year-old dreamer who believes her TV set was sent to her by Jesus. She watches her favorite telenovela with her adorably effeminate playmate Carlos, and the two are inspired by the lead character "Cristal" to chase their dreams of stardom. To the horror of the provincial townsfolk, the kids don shoulder-baring leopard-print tops, leggings, and bright sweat bands as they rehearse their carefully choreographed dance routines in preparation for what they consider an inevitable big break.

Flash forward 20-odd years, and we see a 30-year-old, reality-show-reject Natalia living in Buenos Aires with Carlos. The two work as dancing "Ten Commandments" slabs in Catholic-themed Cristo Park, an Argentine version of Orlando's Holy Land Experience. The film jumps from Natalia's childhood to her adulthood and back again, spilling over with energetic scenes and veering from serious moments to ridiculous musical numbers (there's one devoted to spinach pie).

The result is a cartoonish, over-the-top mélange of zany characters and plot points. There's a suave, snappy-dressing Jesus, a textbook evil church lady, and a few retro special effects. These hipster-worthy bells and whistles are an effective distraction from the film's core defect: a plot based on an aging, not especially talented awoman's relentless and pathetic pursuit of fame.


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