We gave it a C-
After Gigli and Jersey Girl — you know, those disastrous Bennifer flicks that totally tanked at the box office not so long ago — you’d think that Jennifer Lopez would rather gouge out her eyes than share the screen with a real-life romantic partner again. But here she is, producing and costarring with husband Marc Anthony in El Cantante, a biopic about the late Puerto Rican salsa legend Hector Lavoe. What is she, nuts?
”People will have their guns at the ready, finger on the trigger, to shoot us down,” says director Leon Ichaso (Piñero). ”But Jennifer’s very smart. Marc had to be the one. Nobody else [could] play Hector Lavoe.” Anthony does make a certain kind of sense for the role: The New York-born singer grew up listening to Lavoe and has been steadily building a screen presence in movies like Man on Fire. And to be fair, Lopez started developing the $14 million project back in 2002 — long before she could call herself Mrs. Marc Anthony. That they became a married couple before shooting, she says, is really no big deal: ”Marc and I met working, doing a song together,” explains the singer-actress, who plays Lavoe’s feisty, Bronx-bred wife, Puchi. ”So this was second nature to us.”
Told in flashback from Puchi’s perspective, El Cantante spans 30 years, from Lavoe’s arrival in New York City in 1963, to his rise to Latin superstardom, to his death in 1993 from AIDS. ”For me, it was about humanizing him,” says Anthony, who did all his own singing. In the movie, Lavoe spends plenty of time sparring with Puchi, who both indulged his self-destructive behavior (drugs, booze) and chastised him for it. ”She was a ballbuster,” says Lopez.
Now, whether audiences outside the Latino community will embrace Lopez’s ”baby” — a film about a musician they may never have heard of — remains unknown. But as far as the offscreen lovebirds are concerned, they already have their happy ending. Playing a dysfunctional couple taught them ”how sane our relationship is,” says Lopez, laughing. ”Puchi and Hector — God, they made it for 20 years. Surely, we can argue about the toothpaste and get through it!” (August 1)