Film Review: Fun in Acapulco
In 1963, Richard Thorpe released Fun in Acapulco which starred Elvis Presley, Ursula Andress, Elsa Cardenas, Paul Lukas, Larry Domasin, Alejandro Rey, Robert Garricart, Teri Hope, Genaro Gomez, Red West and Teri Garr. The film grossed $3.1 million at the box office and reached #5 on the Variety weekly chart and #33 overall for the year while becoming the top grossing movie musical of the year. It was also the last Presley film released before the Beatles came to the United States.
Acapulco boat worker Mike Windgren gets fired from his job due to the boat owner’s daughter and a young Mexican boy helps him get a job as a lifeguard and singer at a local hotel. However, tempers flare when Mike comes across a rival lifeguard: the champion diver of Mexico and he’s angry at Mike for taking some of his hours and stealing the heart of his girlfriend.
Released in the middle of that period when Presley was making two movies per year, Fun in Acapulco is one of those films that caters more to those diehard fans of his films rather than a majority of the general public. The plot generally hits all the notes that the usual Presley films hit, him starting off high on life only to crash and become in need of a way to get back on top and when he easily finds a way back up, his character gets involved in a love triangle and he has to pacify a rival guy. Interestingly, it hits said notes rather well for the kind of films that Presley had been in, but it wouldn’t have nearly done as well had the film been anything other than Presley vehicle. It makes it so while the film isn’t very good in and of itself, it’s got a certain personality due to who it was made for. Granted, some of Presley’s films lacked that personality and were even worse for it. This isn’t one of those films.
However, while the plot hits the usual notes, it’s pretty clear that Presley was starting to get burnt out in his filmmaking career at this point. His acting here ranges from passably mediocre to him practically phoning it in at various points. It seems one of the more notorious points seems to be when Mike is meeting Raoul and gets the boy to help him get a job at the hotel. From an acting standpoint, it’s pretty clear that Presley’s mind wasn’t fully on the project and it felt like there were many other places that he would rather have been. Notably, the other actors in the film do pretty decent jobs and are able to mask Presley’s apathy to the best of their ability.
Still though, the music in the film is done well, showing that even when he wasn’t truly into making these films, his true passion in making music never really died. As with many of Presley’s films, the soundtrack is one of the best parts of the film and when it came to the points where Presley had to make it look like he was singing, they were done pretty well, even if he was just going through the motions in his acting.
Mike’s characterization is also a good aspect to the film in terms of character growth. He starts off the film trying to escape his past as a circus performer whose career ended when he was the reason his partner was injured during a trapeze act. This notably gave Mike a substantial fear of heights that feels very realistic due to the source of said fear. However through the film, as he goes toe to toe with his rival, entertains the affections of Margarita and Dolores, and entertains the hotel crowd with his songs, Mike is able to keep his past a secret until the aforementioned rival found out and gets Mike to perform a 100 plus foot dive off the La Quebrada cliffs. However, the growth comes in during the climax when he’s set to perform the dive and eventually is able to after overcoming his fear. While a character overcoming their fears has been done much better in other films, it’s able to succeed here due to it being a Presley vehicle.
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