Director Leon Ichaso, already responsible for mucking up a made-for-TV Jimi Hendrix biopic, is back at it with this turgid film about salsa star Hector Lavoe (Marc Anthony), which doesn't so much go behind the music as beneath it. Focusing almost solely on Lavoe's addictions (drugs and women, ho and hum), El Cantante is a garish, dispiriting bit of work — a mountain of biopic clichés snorted through the lens of a fidgety camera that never pauses long enough for us to get to like, or even know, the man responsible for making the Nuyorican sound a mainstream American commodity in the Seventies and early Eighties. Every so often a character appears to tell us Lavoe's sound "will change everything," but nothing happens after that; it's the same ol' self-pity party as Lavoe, whose papa doesn't approve of his move from Puerto Rico to America, blames everyone but himself for his woes, despite his seemingly instant fame. Worse, Anthony's real-life wife, Jennifer Lopez, tries to make the film about her; miscast as Lavoe's missus, Puchi, Lopez hides behind aging makeup that makes her look like Bebe Neuwirth as she talks to a documentary crew about a husband we don't really see. Hector is "corny," she says, but the movie never proves it. We'd settle for interesting, but don't get even that.
Get the Film & TV Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.