Who doesn’t love to laugh? The laughable (and bankable) takes on comedic levity transcend on many different platforms from cartoon strips, to stand-up comedy, to television sitcoms, to quirky novels, and everything else in-between. As many would summarize, Hollywood (or rather motion pictures in general) are no strangers towards producing comedy feature films and with a variety of styles to choose from, including dark comedies, quirk comedies, R-rated raunchy comedies, and so on. Now, as 2017 movies continue to roll out, Pantelion Films (as well as Lionsgate) and director Ken Marino present their newest comedy endeavor with the film How to be a Latin Lover. Does this comedy find its “comedic” groove (and “Latin sex appeal”) or is it a generic and humorless feature?
Having the desire to become filthy rich with a desire of seducing woman with his Latin sex appeal (and libido), Maximo (Eugenio Derbez) marries Peggy (Renee Taylor), a wealthy rich older woman who is twice his age. Twenty-five years later, spoiled and bored from pleasing his now 80-year old wife, Maximo gets a sudden surprise when he finds out that Peggy ends up dumping him for a younger man. Forced out of Peggy’s mansion and stripped of his lifestyle privileges, Maximo desperately looks for a place to stay, ending up on the apartment doorstep of his estranged sister, Sara (Salma Hayek) and her awkwardly nerdy son, Hugo (Raphael Alejandro). Anxious to return to his life of luxury and wealth, Maximo uses his nephew’s crush on a fellow classmate named Arden (McKenna Grace) to get to Arden’s grandmother, Celeste (Raquel Welch), a widowed billionaire. As Maximo attempts to rekindle his sexual appeal as a Latin lover, he finds himself strangely growing fond of bonding with his sister and nephew, conflicted about the life he had with the one he’s now part of.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
After action, fantasy, and animation, the film genre of comedy would be my next favorite choice of movie styles. For the most part, I like the R-rated raunchy comedies, with recent favorites being Sisters and Office Christmas Party. As for How to be a Latin Lover, I don’t remember hearing any sort of “buzz” about this movie online. I first heard about this movie when seeing the trailer for it when I went to see it in theaters. Judging from the trailer’s premise, I was sort of intrigued to see this film when it came out. Despite its attempts, How to be a Latin Lover just plays out as a standard comedy movie. It’s not really bad, but is more of a passable comedy.
How to be a Latin Lover (I’m just going to shorten it to Latin Lover for most of this review) is directed by Ken Marino, primarily known as an actor, makes his directorial film debut and does a decent job. For the most part, Marino stages the movie to be more like Adam Sandler / Happy Madison films, with plenty of slapstick humor peppered with some recognizable faces. Although, despite Sandler’s recent film endeavors, Latin Lover is handled a bit better. Also, Marino tells a traditional storytelling arc, finding an underlying message of family and “what really matters” within the character of Maximo. This tactic has become a staple of this style of film, which can be either good or bad but is well used within Latin Lover’s narrative. In terms of moviemaking, Latin Lover is presented in a standard way from production quality (set designs, costumes, camera angles, etc.), to music (the score composed by Craig Wedren), and editing are all presented in a favorable way.
Problems arise quickly within the movie, however, making Latin Lover more of a mediocre comedic endeavor. For starters, the film’s comedy is a mixed bag of sorts. Sure, there are some funny bits, but for the most part, its various jokes and gags (both either slapstick physical or dialogue driven) miss their mark or just simply fall flat, with only a handful of viewers finding humor within its more meekly attempts at finding laughs. Again, think of the film’s comedy as something similar to an Adam Sandler movie. It’s not really fresh or innovative but has moments of comedic levity presented in that PG-13 style. Thus, this point, whether positive or negative, will ultimately depend on what “tickles your funny bone”. Personally, some parts made me laugh, but Latin Lover’s comedy was more miss than hit.
With the film’s screenplay written by Chris Spain and Jon Zack, perhaps the most negative point about Latin Lover is with its predictable (almost formulaic) narrative plot progression. As with a lot of comedy films of this nature, the film recycles a lot of the familiar / commonplace plot points and narrative progression. From almost start to finish, Latin Lover’s story seems very familiar. Of course, the highlight of Latin Lover is Eugenio Derbez. Derbez, most known to be a recognizable actor in the Latin American community, has also been spotted on such movies like Miracles from Heaven and most recently in Sandy Wexler. He actually did a pretty good job, playing up the character of Maximo as goofy / buffoonish protagonist, who’s mostly the butt of the film’s joking gags. He does have great on-screen presence (his natural charisma leading his credibility), making him a likeable actor and (by extension) his character. Thus, while the comedy’s substance is subpar for the film and the story’s narrative is a bit recycled of past ideas, Eugenio Derbez does shine bright in the role of Maximo.
The film’s supporting cast also does help aid credence to Latin Lover’s positive strengths. Hayek (sometimes mistakenly confused with Penelope Cruz), does a great job in her role, especially when she shares scenes with Derbez’s Maximo. The only thing I didn’t like about her character (not so much on the part of Hayek’s performance) is her side storyline with her relationship with another character named James, played by actor Mather Zickel. This side-story feels unnecessary and really doesn’t go anywhere and sort of feels unresolved by the time the film’s end.
Rob Lowe, plays the character of Rick, Maximo’s fellow gigolo comrade. Lowe proves that he has the talents to hit all the comedic beats. Kristen Bell, plays the character of Cindy, a lonely oddball-ish single woman. Bell’s performance is fine (nothing grand), but her character’s inclusion in the story just seems a bit incomplete. I know the character of Cindy has a particular message plot point for Maximo to learn, but her place at the end of the movie was unfinished, making her character a bit underwhelming (in the movie’s grand scheme of things). Of the younger members of the cast, Raphael Alejandro and McKenna Grace do great work in their respective roles as Hugo and Arden.
The rest of the film’s cast are relegated to smaller roles in the movie (a bit of cliché of sorts). This included Linda Lavin as Millicent (Rick’s old but wealthy mistress), Raquel Welch as Celeste Birch (Maximo’s newest target), Renee Taylor as Peggy (Maximo’s rich mistress), Michael Cera as Remy (Peggy’s newest lover), Rob Corddry as Quincy (Celeste’s chauffeur), and Rob Riggle and Rob Huebel as pair of muscle meatheads (Scott and Nick) who crosses paths with Maximo over their monetary payment that they are owed. Lastly, “Weird Al” Yankovic does make cameo-like appearance, playing himself in the movie.
One gets what they work for, not what they wish for” is the underlining message echoed in the movie How to Be a Latin Lover. Director Ken Marino’s directorial film debut does have a fun premise, showcasing the talents of Eugenio Derbez as well as several others of the main principal cast. Unfortunately, with a formulaic narrative and hit or miss comedy gags, How to Be a Latin Lover only works at certain times, elevating itself slightly above today’s average comedies and not enough for it to be memorable. While it may not be original nor uproariously funny, the movie’s premise and colorful cast do have some entertainment value. Thus, I would give an iffy choice or maybe even a passable rental movie to see once. While actor Eugenio Derbez is a talented actor and does have the comedic chops, he just needs a slightly better film than How to Be a Latin Lover; a mildly passable comedy endeavor.
3.0 Out of 5 (Iffy-Choice / Rent It)
If interested, check out my movie blog @ Jason’s Movie Blog for my reviews of current movies.