Cantinflas (DVD Review)

CantinflasIt was bound to happen but sooner rather than later works fine with me. The film Gods have bestowed a biopic of the Mexican version of Charlie Chaplin in Cantinflas, the tramp, with a heart of gold. Oscar Jaenada (The Losers) and Michael Imperioli (The Sopranos) star. One glaring omission that has to brought up before we go any further is the lack of a Blu-ray edition and this seems to be an intentional decision for whatever reason. There is only a DVD version available in the U.S., but I have read that there is a Mexican Blu-ray version ripe for importing if you so desire. In any event we’ll do our best with what we got. Let’s move forward with our review of Cantinflas on DVD!  




Growing up it wasn’t out of the ordinary to have a Cantinflas film playing in the background, because in a Latino household, he would have been one of several go-to persons in terms of filmed entertainment. Sure, some of his flicks may have been a bit serious here and there but it was always the way his characters were portrayed that sealed the deal for us. Cantinflas was one of us in that he came from the streets but was always an optimist and just needed a chance to shine. He was the underachiever with the heart of gold and that transcended and it’s what made him a star and legend in the Latino community and all over Latin America and beyond.

The moment I saw the trailer for Cantinflas, Hollywood’s version of the iconic character played by Mario Moreno, starring Oscar Jaenada, I knew the film would have to be seen to be believed. Looking at the way Jaenada embodied the character, from his voice, tone, gestures, was somewhat haunting. I was sold but unfortunately was not able to catch the film theatrically. I’m glad it was released on home video in a relatively short time. Yes, there’s a review in here somewhere, so let’s get to it.

Cantinflas chronicles Moreno’s rise from being a street and tent performer to his super stardom in Mexico. At the same time Michael Todd (Michael Imperioli) is making his big budget production of Around the World in 80 Days and he wants Cantinflas to be part of the film. Cantinflas is edited in a way where it flashes back to Moreno’s humble beginnings and back to Todd as he tries to get the film made. The film touches on Cantinflas the Man, Lover, and Star as he literally goes from rags to riches – and the vices come pouring in. With Cantinflas being a star in Mexico it puts a damper on his home life and his wandering eye as he begins to have marital problems with his wife Valentina played by Ilse Salas. It all comes to a standstill when Cantinflas has to pick between his wife and his career as an entertainer.

The visual style of the film reminded me of Shadow of the Vampire in that we’re watching a film and they’re making films within the film we are watching – if that makes sense. I liked the visual aesthetic of Cantinflas and it looked like the filmmakers were granted a moderate budget to bring their vision of the legend to life. The only things that keep Cantinflas the movie from being a great film is the length of the film, which runs 102 minutes and the fact that it only chronicles his life from about 1931 to 1955, so it’s not really a complete bio-pic, but more of a paraphrased one. That is a slight bummer but it doesn’t stop it from being very entertaining and full of heart.

Michael Todd’s character arc is also an important one since it establishes him as an up and coming producer who is trying to make a name for himself outside of Todd-AO (a film system he helped develop) and into features. Around the World in 80 Days would be his grand opus but he needs a star – in fact many stars would eventually contribute to the making of the film and so would his future wife Elizabeth Taylor played by Barbara Mori. From his end things go from bad to worse until he is given some helpful advice by one of Cantinflas’ biggest fans…I won’t tell you who it was but he’s a big deal even today and a legend in his own right.

The film does run at a brisk pace, which is not necessarily a good thing, as his story is very fascinating, but 102 minutes is a bit of a buzz kill. I’d like to think that there’s a director’s cut somewhere or at least an alternate version in a foreign market but who knows. What you see is what you get it. Cantinflas on DVD is a blast.



Encoding: MPEG-2

Resolution: 480p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Clarity/Detail: Cantinflas on DVD has a very exaggerated style – almost a pastel kind of look to the film, which is a great touch, as the DVD does a great job reproducing these visuals Sure, it’s not high definition, but as far as DVD presentations go – this is up there with the very best of them.

Depth: Cantinflas is celluloid cake – I want my cake and eat it, too. The DVD looks fantastic.

Black Levels: There are a few scenes that take place in darkly lit interior and dark outdoors. Yes, there are a bit of crush artifacts but they don’t distract from the main picture.

Color Reproduction: The color palette is a feast for the eyes. Banding issues are kept to the bare indium and pixilation is not a problem.

Flesh Tones: Flesh tones look natural, although a bit polished, but I think they gave all the male actors a layer of base coat make-up – that or they polished them a bit in post production. A base coat application of make-up is usually used to cover up men’s 5 0’clock shadow or if they have stubble, etc.

Noise/Artifacts: Noise, debris, and artifacts checked themselves before they wrecked themselves.




Audio Format(s): Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles: English, Spanish

Dynamics: The standard Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack comes through the sound stage flawlessly. It’s a big and bold soundtrack that features several bombastic cues, which sound great on this DVD. Keep in mind that the film is in Spanish, with English subtitles, and in English, with Spanish subtitles. Say that twice…

Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel handles the low frequency rumble just fine. There are no explosions or gunfire to speak of but there are many music and theatrical cues that the subwoofer handles just fine.

Surround Sound Presentation: The surround channels handle ambience, crowd scenes, etc., in a clean and crisp manner that don’t over power the happenings towards the front of the sound stage.

Dialogue Reproduction: Dialogue levels are clean, clear, and crisp – in addition to; if you’re a Spanish speaker you can remove the subtitles and watch the film as is.



A nice dose of supplemental material would have been generous but we only get a small featurette.

  • Cantinflas: From Mexico to the Big Screen – This is a Spanish language featurette (with English subtitles) that features interviews with cast and crew. It’s a triply thing to hear Oscar Jaenada go from his normal Spanish language accent to his actual Castilian accent. That is a true testament to his portrayal of Cantinflas.




Cantinflas on DVD is a very entertaining film and Oscar Jaenada deserves to be nominated for an Oscar. It’s a shame that the film wasn’t just a tad bit since the ending felt extremely rushed. It’s really over before you know it. The video and audio specifications is spot on but the special features fail the material. In this case more would have been better. Cantinflas is recommended but taper your expectations according and just focus on Jaenada’s performance – it’s absolutely stellar.



Order Cantinflas on DVD!



Gerard Iribe is a writer/reviewer for Why So Blu?. He has also reviewed for other sites like DVD Talk, Project-Blu, and CHUD, but Why So Blu? is where the heart is. You can follow his incoherency on Twitter: @giribe

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