This review was originally posted on News Cult in June 2017.

Starring: Alfonso Dosal, Martha Higareda, Germán Valdés III, Christian Vázquez, Vadhir Derbez, Rodrigo Murray

Director: Carlos Bolado

Running Time: 106 Minutes

Rating: PG-13 for Fairly Painful, Occasionally Crude Physical Comedy

Release Date: June 2, 2017

The Mexican comedy 3 Idiotas makes the case that Hollywood clichés about higher education translate easily south of the border and that those same clichés can still be entertaining when delivered by spirited performances. Based on 3 Idiots, one of the highest-grossing Indian films of all time, Idiotas (the third of at least six remakes, including a planned American version) follows titular knuckleheads Pancho (Alfonso Dosal, a dead ringer for Rami Malek), Beto (Germán Valdés III), and Felipe (Christian Vázquez) as they work their way to an engineering degree. They are branded as fools not because of a lack of academic acumen (for the most part) but because of their tendency to run afoul of authority, particularly blowhard professor Esaclona (Rodrigo Murray).

Felipe is the first in his family to make it to college, Beto would rather be a photographer; these two get sufficient resolutions, but this is mostly Pancho’s story. Their college exploits are presented through a frame story, in which Felipe and Beto recount their earlier days while tracking down Pancho, who disappeared on the cusp of graduation. Pancho is one of the university’s most promising students, and his budding romance with med student Mariana is obviously headed for a happy ending, even though he ruins her sister’s wedding and his dad is the aforementioned Escalona. There are some rom-com detours into over-the-top complications, which are a bit frustrating, but they are not a dealbreaker when the crux of the story is the mix of coming-of-age maturation and aspirational academia.

Essentially, 3 Idiotas’ purpose is a combination of standing up to authority, inspiring its characters and viewers to invent new products, and scatology. That sounds like a ridiculous menu, but somehow it left me delighted throughout. As Escalona, Murray is fully committed to the power-hungry academic role that is the bane of many a cinematic free-thinker. His is an exaggerated stereotype, but he wears it well. The inspirational angle feels shoehorned in out of necessity; it is too vague to produce real results, but at least it is plenty earnest. And then there are the farts. So many farts. One character is branded with the nickname “Stinky McToilet.” Maybe that moniker lost some dignity in translation from Spanish to English, but quite frankly, I hope not.

And because this is a remake of an Indian film, there is Bollywood-style closing credits dance extravaganza. It pretty much comes out of nowhere, but how can you ever say no to the rhythm?

3 Idiotas is Recommended If You Like: Dead Poets Society, Easy A, Nacho Libre (for the farts)

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Scorched Scrotums