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RATED: Not Rated
STUDIO: Entertainment One
RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes
• Interview with Toniko Melo, Wagner Moura, Gisele Froes, Braulio Mantovani, Fernando Meirelles and Veronica Julian
The ugly fictional stepsister of Catch Me If You Can.
Director Toniko Melo Actors Wagner Moura, Emiliano Ruschel, Juliano Cazarre
VIPs is based on a true story of one of the world’s most legendary con men. Marcelo, an average teenager, always wanted to be someone…else. Always impersonating those around him and dreaming of traveling the world and living the high life as a pilot like his father, he runs away from home. But what begins as just another flight of fancy will send Marcelo from seamy criminal underworld to the glamorous world of high society. Changing everything from his name to his looks to keep up, Marcelo must figure out who he is and who he wants to be before he loses himself entirely.
VIPs is marketed as a based on a true story of a Brazilian Catch Me If You Can. While quite a few similarities exist, but the fundamental enjoyment was nowhere close to its predecessor. While engaging for the most part it suffers from a thorough crescendo and never capitalizes on the possible momentum the story could have provided.
The main character takes on the 5 separate personalities throughout the film, and the movie changes tones as frequently. This would be perfectly fine if the movie was an anthology tied together from the central character, but instead it tries to base itself in a linear narrative while using thematically different themes. The big difference that occurred between Catch Me If You Can and VIPs is that latter doesn’t maintain the balance of the character or his motives, and instead attempts to separate each of the personalities into their own short arc, while still trying to return to a centralized story.
Two of the identities that consume considerable time do have interesting stories, but only one of them appears to have any long term consequences. The biggest segment begins with a comical name generation followed by a series of completely unbelievable events, not because they couldn’t happen but because it’s hard to believe them occurring to a character with so little confidence in himself. The only time we actually see our main character actually act as though he truly belonged was when flying was involved.
I understand that some of the key events of this story are true, but what I cannot fathom is the lack of charisma portrayed being anything similar to what happened in real life. To be a chameleon, you have to fit the part, look the part and breath the part. This is the disconnect in the film, as we go into the seedy underground of drug smuggling all of the other smugglers look like South American gangsters, barely showered, leathery skinned veterans of avoiding the law and competitors alike. Our boy is clean cut with a somewhat sad bleach blond Kurt Cobain grunge haircut and barely worn clothing using his boyish charms to get approval from the Godfather like character. When he eventually has to face the police, there is never a question as to whether he is released as a mole or the avoidance generally to ensure the operation is not attempted to be infiltrated by the police. Even though this would have taken more time and could have eventually resolved the same, the opportunity is lost the same way as the focal interest in the character.
I also had a hard time believing later scenes where our guy uses his guise to impersonate a Corporate mogul. There are spots where he stands looking aloof in a party only to be taken under the wing of a celebrity who believes his scheming. When he is with the celebrity he exudes the power of a CEO, but when left to his own devices he looks unknowing and similar to a lost puppy. I understand that the super rich don’t always fit a singular model, but to change so dramatically from one instant to another while at a party and not have others notice was completely unthinkable.
It’s a movie, and not everything has to be believable to have fun, but when you state your film is based on true events, then the adaption should also be grounded in realism. Every year we see at least 20 sports based movies inspired by true events and they often take liberty to expand on the realism with adding or subtracting distractions from the central narrative to enhance the dramatic effect. VIPs struggles because the true events are unbelievable to begin with (although true), and needed realism to showcase how dramatic the factual implausibilities of story truly were.
The DVD was very basic in its simple packaging. The only special features are 22 minutes worth of interviews with the cast and crew and the theatrical trailer.
Out of a Possible 5 Stars