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Soft-pedaling an immigrant's story in 'Under the Same Moon'

America Ferrera and Jesse Garcia appear in Under the Same Moon with Adrian Alonso, who plays a boy separated from his mom.

Fox Searchlight

America Ferrera and Jesse Garcia appear in Under the Same Moon with Adrian Alonso, who plays a boy separated from his mom.

Under the Same Moon (PG-13) (106 min.) — Not even an anti-immigration grouch like Lou Dobbs could resist the plight of little Carlitos (Adrian Alonso), who illegally crosses the U.S. border to find his mother.

Rosario (Kate del Castillo) promised to send for Carlitos when she made enough money cleaning houses. That was four years ago. Now they share only a few Sunday morning minutes on pay phones. Rosario talks about the Los Angeles strip mall she's near and her son hangs on each word, as if she's describing Disneyland.

You just know Carlitos will see it for himself someday.

Under the Same Moon wants viewers to fear Carlitos won't. But the film isn't tough enough to make any crisis seem insurmountable or any stranger unable to resist Carlitos' saucer eyes. Danger seems more minimal that it should.

Exploring whether immigration laws are too strict or lax isn't part of the plan for director Patricia Riggen and screenwriter Ligiah Villalobos. It's all about Carlitos persevering while his mother dodges the romantic intentions of a legal immigrant (Ernesto D'Alessio) who could secure their futures.

Meanwhile, the boy runs away after his guardian grandmother dies, finding two college students (Ugly Betty's America Ferrera is one, in a brief role) who'll sneak him across the border. A close call ensues without much tension. Then there's a meeting with Enrique (Eugenio Derbez), who is shady enough to raise some fears, but not for long. He also falls under Carlitos' spell, helping the child through narrow escapes.

Under the Same Moon is a pleasantly bland movie that shortchanges the danger most illegal immigrants face. We can cheer through tears at the finale, but in such topical circumstances, that just isn't enough. B-

Steve Persall, Times film critic

Soft-pedaling an immigrant's story in 'Under the Same Moon' 04/02/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 8, 2008 12:35pm]
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