Judge Josh Rode prefers the Waltz.
They've made it official, just not quite legal.
One of film's favorite tropes is two people who pretend to be a couple, only to fall in love for real. Immigration Tango takes it a bit further, by swapping the members of two couples. More is always better, right?
Facts of the Case
Russian immigrant Elena (Elika Portney, Tricks of Love) and Columbian immigrant Carlos (Carlos Leon, The Cry) are a Miami couple whose visas expire soon. Their best friends, American couple Mike (McCaleb Burnett, Fast and Furious) and Betty (Ashley Wolfe, Ten Stories Tall), agree to sham marriages in order to help them procure green cards. Since Elena's visa is up the soonest, she and Mike get married right away.
Their plan is to have the weddings but keep everything else the same; Mike and Betty continue to live in Betty's condo, while Carlos and Elena would still be on Carlos' boat. But when immigration official Ms. Ravencourt (Avery Sommers, Lost Everything) discovers Mike and Betty engaging in a little couch tango (because apparently she's allowed to just walk into people's homes), they realize they have to make their living arrangements match their purported relationships. So Mike moves onto the boat with Elena, where she likes to skinny-dip each morning and there's no room to sleep anywhere but in the same bed. Meanwhile, at Betty's condo, Carlos gets the couch. You can probably write the rest of the story yourself.
Other than adding another couple to the mix, there aren't a lot of new ideas in Immigration Tango. But the film stays afloat because the writing and acting are pretty good, and it looks like it was made a much larger budget than it had. The characters fare best when they're in a group where their personalities can play off each other. When they spit off into couples, the story is not as successful.
Betty is the stereotypical control-freak whose main reason for dating Mike seems to be that he's easy to keep under her thumb. She insists their stalled love life will be re-ignited, once she's done with law school, but it's clear she's not really into him anymore. Of course, that makes the scene where Mike and Betty are caught on the couch even more implausible. Throughout the rest of the film, Betty shows no sexual interest in Mike, but they needed that scene to catapult the story to the next level.
Portney is open and engaging as Elena, but she doesn't have great chemistry with either of the men. With Carlos, she seems to just bounce along in the wake of his frenetic energy, feeling as though she's with him because he insists upon it. As for Mike, his longing for her is palpable. However, though she understands him much better than his real girlfriend, the two never really seem to fall in love.
Leon is completely believable as Carlos, the self-titled "Latin Lover." He's full of energy and life, the kind of guy who would be fun to take to a bar, but you wouldn't want to live with. This dichotomy carries over into the film, as his scenes encompass both the best and the worst it has to offer.
Burnnett has a "deer in the headlights" look throughout much of the film, which fits Mike's personality but also makes him a bit bland. He's the least interesting character, even though he ultimately becomes the principal lead.
Then there are the side characters, including Mike's father, who accuses Carlos of being a drug dealer the moment they meet and constantly makes suggestive comments about Elena. According to the commentary track, he represents the American middle class. The film clearly wants Ms. Ravencourt to be the comic relief. Anytime she walks, her steps are sped up just a bit to give it that Keystone Kops feel, and for awhile it appears she thinks Mike and Carlos are really a gay couple, though nothing comes of it. During the "rush to the airport," she channels Jeff Daniels in Dumb and Dumber by peering over Mike's shoulders while they ride a Vespa, even though she has a car that could have got them there much faster.
Director David Burton Morris (The Price of Love) is mostly known for television movies, but he does a credible job with Immigration Tango. The pacing is nice and the boat shots are quite amazing, considering they shot on location on an actual dinky boat. My only real gripe is the extended use of snippets of Miami between cut scenes. The location was well established at the beginning; there's no need to keep reminding us where we are.
The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer shows no grain or defects marring the image, and although nothing really jumps out, the colors are warm. The 5.1 Dolby audio originates primarily from the center speaker, with rear speakers getting a little overflow music and a really boring commentary track. The subwoofer is non-existent.
We've seen better versions of this tale. That doesn't make Immigration Tango unwatchable, just don't overthink the premise, skip the "meet the parents" sequence, and you'll have a reasonably good time.
Guilty, but let off early for good behavior.
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