UNDER THE SAME MOON (LA MISMA LUNA) — ** 1/2 — Kate del Castillo, Adrian Alonso, Eugenio Derbez; with English subtitles (Spanish dialects); rated PG-13 (profanity, violence, slurs, brief drugs, vulgarity)

"Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna)" makes no bones about where it stands on the illegal-immigration issue.

Characters who are in the United States illegally, or are trying to do so, are shown as being brave and heroic. Those who enforce the U.S. immigration laws are shown as being faceless threats, in the most threatening manner possible.

Also, the way the film is continually placing a small child either in harm's way or in perilous situations does leave a bit of a bad aftertaste.

That being said, the film does have its sweetly appealing moments as well. And the cast is good.

"Under the Same Moon" explores the relationship between a mother and son. Rosario Reyes (Kate del Castillo) is a hard-working maid, who is trying to get her green card and to make enough money to bring her young son, Carlitos (Adrian Alonso), across from Mexico.

Meanwhile, the 9-year-old is staying with his grandmother, Benita (Angelina Pelaez), and desperately waiting for the day when he can be reunited with his mother in California.

Unfortunately, Benita dies and rather than be forced to stay with his sketchy uncle, Manuel (Gustavo Sanchez Parra), Carlitos decides to run away.

In fact, the boy tries make his way across the border to California, with aid from a pair of clueless college students (America Ferrara and Jesse Garcia), and another illegal immigrant, Enrique (Eugenio Derbez).

Alonso ("The Legend of Zorro") is fresh-faced and has a winning personality. And surprisingly, it's his believable on-screen friendship with Mexican television star Derbez's gruff Enrique that fuels the film's best moments.

That subplot also injects some needed humor into this often-bittersweet melodrama. Del Castillo is good, too, though her character is painted in some unsympathetic shadings — mostly due to her dealings with a would-be suitor, Paco (Gabriel Porras).

"Under the Same Moon (La Misma Luna)" is rated PG-13 for scattered strong profanity, some brief violence (arrests and apprehensions, as well as child-in-peril elements), racial and other derogatory slurs, brief drug content (prescription medicines), and some suggestive language. Running time: 109 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com