Movie Report: Born in East L.A. (1987)

Book coverI remember seeing ads or trailers for this film, but I am not sure if it was contemporaneous advertisements for it in 1987 or if the trailer preceded one of my favorite comedies from that era, which meant I saw it over and over again. So I bought this DVD earlier this month, and because I have liked Cheech in some of his later work (Nash Bridges and Lost, so it’s not recent later work), and because I was in the mood for a comedy one night, I popped it in.

The film follows the story of Rudy, a Los Angeles resident, who is supposed to go pick up his “cousin” from Mexico at a factory. Due to plot contrivances (which are not unnecessarily unrealistic plot contrivances), he mistakenly leaves his wallet at home when he goes, and while he’s there, he’s swept up in an INS raid and gets deported. With no ID and no money, he has to figure out a way to get back home. Which relies not only on the grifts of an ex-pat American running a club (a pre-Home Alone Daniel Stern, but the affection of a Mexican woman (played by an American of Southwest Asian Indian-Venezuelian descent). Eventually, he is able to cross the border when he storms it with a vast crowd of Mexicans. My DVD must have skipped a scene or two, as he pops up in a parade, and he and other main characters in the movie try to blend in to escape the authorities.

Ya know, times have changed. Although sympathetic with the main character, a couple of pieces of the movie don’t ring quite so innocent in 2023. One is the storming of the border by the numerous Mexicans. Another is that one of the grifts that Rudy participates in is helping some non-Mexican immigrants from Asia to act Mexican-American so when they illegally cross the border, they can fit in. Ay, carumba! the blogger said, stealing from a culture–not so much the Latinx culture but the 1990s catchphrase of Bart Simpson.

The biggest difference is not so much the political questions of today–those sticking bits from the preceding paragraph–but the loss in the shared humanity that made these stories approachable and consumable in the 1980s and 1990s. I mean, when I rewatched Friday last October, I also hearkened back to a time when the art made me sympathize with the plight of the characters even though I was not of that particular race.

I mean, I liked The Triplets’ “Light a Candle” which is all about illegal immigration:

But, now, it’s a political hot button (and a far greater problem), and I’m having trouble seeing it as a human interest story or a bit of shared humanity.

Because the professionals, the grievance industry, the politicians, and the people making “art” today would prefer to divide us.

Man, the future of back then sucks. I hope the future of today is better, but I’m not betting on it.

At any rate, the film was amusing. And notable for being a whole film based on a novelty parody of “Born in the U.S.A.” Which is better than most films based on video games and board games.

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