Captain Pantoja and the Special Service

(Pantaleon y Las Visitadoras)

Who could think that beautiful horny women in the lush Amazon jungle could be so boring? Well they are in Captain Pantoja and the Special Service, based on the popular novel by Mario Vargas Llosa. This is a ribald romp through the rainforest, about a good man who finds himself stuck in a strange situation. Pantaleon Pantoja (Salvador del Solar, Courage) is a straight-laced military man who follows every rule and does everything like clockwork. He makes love to his beautiful wife Pochita (Monica Sanchez, La Carnada) like clockwork, every other Saturday.

These qualities make him the perfect candidate for the military's current problem. The soldiers have needs, and are impregnating the local women. The military enlists Pantoja to fix this, without telling him what is going on or what he is to do. When he finally realizes what they want him to do, it is too late. He is to begin ferrying prostitutes to military outposts to take care of the needs of the soldiers. However, they are using terms like "visitors" and "renderings" to substitute for the other more obvious ones. Pantoja is horrified and hides what he is doing from his wife, yet still dives into the problem with skill. He may not like what he is doing, but he must obey orders.

He enlists the help of Chuchupe (Pilar Bardem, Gypsy, The Basics), a brothel owner, in auditioning the members of his Service. Soon, he finds himself more successful than anybody could have imagined. They ride around the rivers in a bright red and green boat and matching skimpy clothes. Rumors begin to spread, and El Sinchi (Aristoteles Picho, Proof of Life, Courage), a local radio activist, sets to out the perpetrators behind the rumors. On Pantoja's end, he finds himself increasingly drawn to La Colombiana (Angie Cepeda, Ilona Arrives with the Rain), one of his employees who also obviously has eyes for him.

Captain Pantoja and the Special Service is a long movie with a short story. It runs out of things to say, and director Francisco J. Lombardi (Don't Tell Anyone, Under the Skin) does the public a disservice by puttering on. The movie is partially a morality fable, for the country and for Pantoja, and part raunchy comedy. The raunch never gets anywhere because screenwriters Enrique Moncloa and Giovanna Pollarolo (Don't Tell Anyone, Puerto Verde) never take any risks. Most of the action takes place off screen, and most of the jokes fall flat. Watching del Solar is frustrating, because it is blatantly obvious what is eventually going to happen. He is a high-strung man placed in a very difficult circumstance, and it is only a matter of time before he cracks. Why he cracks is a little odd, especially when Lombardi casts a woman like Sanchez (who looks just as good if not better than Cepeda) as his wife. The movie does end on an unexpected note, but this happens far too late; everybody's attention is already long gone.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Bad.
2 hours, 17 minutes, Spanish with English subtitles, Rated R for strong sexuality, nudity, and language.

Back to Movies