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By Phil Hall | April 28, 2007

“Goodbye Momo” (“A Dios Momo”) is a Uruguayan import following an 11-year-old named Obdulio who sells newspapers on the street in order to support his family, which consists of two sisters and a grandmother. His work isn’t easy or pleasant, as a cranky boss constantly harasses him and adult hooligans steal his earnings.

Obdulio is supposed to attend school, but the classroom holds no intrigue for him. Part of that disinterest is a defense mechanism, as he cannot read or write. However, a chance encounter with a night watchman at a newspaper printing plant gives Obdulio the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of the world through the power of literacy.

“Goodbye Momo” takes places during the 40 days of Uruguayan Carnival, which may lack the spectacle of the Brazilian version but still offers a sizzling sense of fun and music. The Carnival backdrop gives “Goodbye Momo” some much needed energy and color, and the brief sequence where Obdulio and his pal Rusito spy on a glamourous female dancer hits the right chords and resonate with the genuine misadventures of childhood.

Unfortunately, too much of the film is sluggish in its pacing and tiresome in its focus. At least 20 minutes passes before the film actually begins to hook on to heart of its plotline, but even when the story is on track it nonetheless keeps slipping away into petty and frequently annoying distractions. It also doesn’t help that young Mathias Acuna, as Obdulio, is a terrible and surprisingly uncharismatic actor, or that filmmaker Leonardo Ricagni consistently opts to play Obdulio’s scenes for cute reactions rather than genuine emotion. It is fairly difficult to sympathize for a child who comes across as a bit of a bore.

And who is Momo? He is a god of the Carnival, who is presented here like a mime with cymbals and he acts like a Pied Piper to lure Obdulio into new worlds. The effect is meant to be Fellinesque, but it is strictly embarrassing.

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