If I can sum up my views towards Meet the Head of Juan Perez it is this: AWESOME!
Seriously, how can you hate a movie which has a bunch of fatsos traumatizing fellow workers by disrobing for a poker game or the circus’ lusting for a woman with a limp that would make a polio victim proud? I know I can’t. Of course, this wouldn’t be a goldmine without lots of black humor and a creepy obsession with animals.
The plot of the film, directed by Emilio Portes, is about a circus in Mexico City which is going through some rough times and to stay afloat, the circus fires clowns or in Juan’s case, give him less work. The movie really takes off when Juan attempts the theft of an antique guillotine for his new act; pretending to be decapitated. However, as shown in the first few minutes, this plan goes awry and Juan Perez gets in way over his head, literally. He achieves his goal at great expense to his relationships with his wife and co-workers/friends. Unfortunately, the plot is quite complex and at times reaches Ocean’s Twelve-level confusion.
Since it is a comedy, the jokes and sight gags are more important and are in abundance and it almost always hits the mark in tickling the funny bone. Special attention must be placed to the actress Dolores Heredia who can make a person smile just by hobbling over to her husband with an unsightly limp. Nagging and acting like a total killjoy at times, Heredia is able to make a person laugh, simply by giving her husband a certain look. With that in mind, much of the comedy is generated by the fact that a bunch of misfits are preoccupied with how to screw each other over.
Aside from the comedy, one of the other reasons that the movie works; it’s unsentimental portrayal of the circus freaks. The film knows damn well that the people portrayed in this film are nothing more than disgusting, opportunistic and treacherous and that’s how I like it. However, the actors are talented enough to portray them with charm and even Gorgo, the weight-challenged coveter and all-around douchebag is impossible not to love. Last but not least, actor Silveria Palacios is great to the point that he remains likable, even after various transgressions within the circus. But aside from that, Juan Perez is ironically living out his role as a magician by turning his craft upside down and is now invested in deceiving his co-workers/surrogate family for one person, himself.
Even the police are lampooned for their love of beating suspects and the head chief is obviously wet with excitement at the mere thought of killing people with a blade. Sure, at that point, the audience will be a little shocked, but the director knows that the audience, like the cops, will love it, if presented in a different manner and how!
But, there are less than perfect aspects of the movie. The plot, as stated earlier gets ludicrously complex by the end of the film as Juan’s screw ups finally get the better of him and retribution comes. In other areas, the Chinese craftsman is inexplicably way too generous when it comes to a certain plot point in the film and serves as a Deus Ex Machina in a way. Of course, there are some legitimate points to be made for the opposite view, but when you make a film that is focused as much the inevitability of fate in the guillotine sense, then the Chinese Mexican’s scenes feel a bit tacked on.
Nevertheless, the film is funny and rarely lets up in that department. By the end, there are no changes, and my phobia of clowns was mitigated somewhat by their lovable shoes and their endearing treachery. At the same time, the movie does not show these freaks to be “noble” or even in possession of a moral other than loyalty. Even that is tempered by the fact that they are the personification of the saying, “beggars can’t be choosers”, so that was a relief in contrast to the next film I saw. So, with that in mind, this is a movie that deserves all the good press it has gotten. More importantly, it’s funny.