Those who remember Ernesto "Che" Guevera, killed in 1967 by rightists aided by the CIA, as a fierce, uncompromised. Marxist revolutionary will be mortified by The Motorcycle Diaries. This lollipop-land retelling of the early days of Fidel Castro’s compatriot shows Guevera as a shy Argentine med student who, on a post-college 1952 road trip with a biochemist buddy, "learns" the obvious: that it’s a rotten world out there, and that poor people are neglected. It’s the social conscience of a Peace Corps volunteer, not of a far-left militant who, in Cuba, would bring down Batista’s government.
But that’s the ploy of Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles (Central Station): a depoliticized, picturesque movie which can attract a middle-class audience that would be scared off by something truly radical. So "Che" is played sweetly by Mexico’s arthouse pinup, Gael Garcia Bernal (Y Tu Mama Tambien); and the places about South America traversed by Guevera and Alberto Grenado (Rodrigo de la Serna) become a topographic diversion. Such beauty! And The People? They remain the primitive Other, Indians without voice waiting for liberation from our white-guy movie heroes. Believe young "Che" swimming a river to be with his leper-colony friends? Then you’ve been smitten by this bogus-to-the-core movie.
(Boston Phoenix, October, 2004)