The Mambo Kings (1992)
Movie InfoNew York art dealer Arne Glimcher took his first crack at film directing with this florid, high-energy romance about two brothers who flee Cuba in the early 1950s to make it as musicians in the United States. Cynthia Cidre wrote the literate screenplay adapted from Oscar Hijuelos's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. Cesar (Armand Assante) and Nestor Castillo (Antonio Banderas) are popular musicians on Havana's club circuit, but when they make enemies of the wrong people, they are forced to leave for New York City, the moody Nestor leaving behind his true love. In New York, the brothers work as meat-cutters during the day as Cesar tries to organize a band and make inroads into the lively New York music scene. Soon, as The Mambo Kings, they get club bookings and Cesar falls in love with a sharp-tongued cigarette girl, Lanna Lake (Cathy Moriarty), and Nestor with the beautiful Delores Fuentes (Maruschka Detmers), who wants to be a teacher. Cesar concentrates on singing and managing the band, while Nestor plays the trumpet and writes emotional songs of love. All seems to be going well until Cesar antagonizes the moneymen on the Latin nightclub circuit and they finds themselves playing bar mitzvahs. But after they're discovered by Desi Arnaz (Desi Arnaz Jr.), the group is prominently featured on I Love Lucy. Their popularity soars and they cut a successful album called "Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love." Cesar is glorying in his success, but Nestor is disappointed and longs to return to Cuba. … More
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Critic Reviews for The Mambo Kings
A spirited evocation of the mambo craze which swept post-war America, adapted from Oscar Hijuelos' Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
It's as if there were a terrible telephone connection between the film's vivid sound track and its tepid romantic melodrama, to which the music is supposed to give style and substance.
"The Mambo Kings" is so pumped up with life it threatens to burst. It's beautifully filmed and flashily edited. It pulsates with rhythmic ecstasy. It throbs, it sweats, it pounds, it undulates.
A corny, eye-filling concoction of sound and strife, it recalls the heyday of a dance craze with the Technicolor splash of a 1950s musical.
In some ways this story is as old as the movies, but "The Mambo Kings" is so filled with energy, passion and heedless vitality that it seems new, anyway.
HOT! HOT! HOT!
Fun, flashy musical with Banderas in early role.
Terrific music and a boatload of high energy can't quite compensate for a thin plot and weak characterizations....
Another award worthy performance by Armand Assante that wasn't recognized. And a great song.
Armand Assante gives the most robust and impressive performance of his career as Cesar, a musician whose lust for life affects all those around him.
"The Mambo Kings" is fairly conventional in story and structure - but oh, that music. The audience will be ready to dance in the aisles.
Audience Reviews for The Mambo Kings
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