How to Be a Latin Lover

 latin-love-rev How to Be a Latin Lover  (2017)    Pantelion/Comedy    RT: 115 minutes    Rated PG-13 (crude humor, sexual references and gestures, brief nudity)    Director: Ken Marino    Screenplay: Chris Spain and Jon Zack    Music: Craig Wedren    Cinematography: John Bailey    Release date: April 28, 2017 (US)    Cast: Eugenio Derbez, Salma Hayek, Raphael Alejandro, Kristen Bell, Rob Lowe, Linda Lavin, Mckenna Grace, Raquel Welch, Omar Chaparro, Renee Taylor, Rob Corddry, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, Michaela Watkins, Michael Cera.

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  The new comedy How to Be a Latin Lover is weird and not in a good way. It wants to a heart-warming, safe-to-bring-the-kids comedy that extols the value of family. At the same time, it centers on a guy who makes his living seducing rich elderly woman. It contains numerous PG-13 level jokes about geriatric sex, poop, farts and co-star Rob Lowe’s “extra-large sausage”. If you do bring the kids, you’ll have some embarrassing questions to answer on the ride home. How do you explain the central character’s “profession” to a nine-year-old? Like I said, weird.

 latin-lover We first meet Maximo as a child who loses his father in a tragi-funny work accident. The kid watches as Dad drives his truck through the family home (in Mexico) after falling asleep at the wheel. Fatherless and homeless, he and his little sister share their dreams for the future. She wants to be an architect; he wants to be a trophy husband. As a young man, he meets Peggy (Taylor, The Nanny) while working as a pool boy. The movie then jumps ahead twenty-five years where we see Maximo (Derbez, Instructions Not Included) as a lazy, spoiled, middle-aged layabout who spends his now 80-year-old wife’s money like it’s going out of style. It comes as a shock when he catches her cheating on him with a younger man, a geeky car salesman (Cera, Juno) with a poor fashion sense. She kicks Maximo to the curb, leaving him without a dime to his name.

  With no place else to go, he shows up at the apartment of his estranged younger sister Sara (Hayek, Grown Ups) and her dorky 10-year-old son Hugo (Alejandro, Once Upon a Time). He thought he had a niece but never mind. A struggling junior architect, she can’t even land a single client because she has no experience but how is she supposed to get any if nobody will hire her. She reluctantly allows Maximo to move in with them provided he finds gainful employment and helps out with things like taking Hugo to and from school. That’s where he spots Celeste (Welch, Fantastic Voyage), the wealthy grandmother of a girl, Arden (Grace, Gifted), Hugo likes from afar. Seeing an opportunity to regain his old lifestyle, he offers to teach his nephew the fine art of seduction in order to give him the confidence he needs to talk to his crush. This will provide Maximo the opportunity to approach Celeste at the girl’s birthday party and turn on his dubious charm.

  Naturally, Maximo and the boy (who also lost his father at a young age) develop a bond while he teaches him the tricks of his trade, an endeavor Sara is vehemently against for all the expected reasons. The broken brother-sister relationship also appears to be on the mend. Then, of course, his scheme blows up and threatens to destroy the new life he’s built.

  I’m not going to label How to Be a Latin Lover a bad movie even though it’s not particularly good. It’s mildly amusing at best. I laughed two or three times but it was mainly hollow laughter, the kind you afford to stupid Adam Sandler movies like… ANY OF THEM. One gag involves a man in a wheelchair being repeatedly struck by cars in a chain-reaction accident Maximo started. Yeah, I laughed at that; I’m so ashamed. I also laughed at the scene where Maximo jumps into a pool after darkening ALL of his body hair with black shoe polish. Guess what it looks like he did in the pool? It’s a scene custom-made for the 11-year-old boy in all of us. The humor in How to Be a Latin Lover is, by turns, low-brow, sophomoric and a little skeevy. I have to admit to being weirded out by hearing Linda Lavin (Alice) talk dirty to her boy-toy Rick (former teen heartthrob Lowe). Even Flo would blush at her former co-star’s behavior.

  Hayek shows a flair for comedy in How to Be a Latin Lover, especially in the scene where she drunkenly salsas with Maximo. It’s also sweet relief from her otherwise buzz-kill character, an overly serious mom who freaks when she sees her 10-year-old driving a car. At 76, Welch is as lively and willing as ever but she looks like a walking billboard for plastic surgery. Derbez is kind of like the Mexican version of Roberto Begnini (or Adam Sandler); he’s a fool and a clown but has a big heart. By movie’s end, he goes from selfish to selfless, a character arc that rarely comes as a surprise anymore. He’s okay in How to Be a Latin Lover but is frequently overshadowed by a good supporting cast that also includes Rob Riggle (21 Jump Street) and Rob Huebel (Children’s Hospital) as a pair of comically thuggish business owners to whom Maximo owes money, Rob Corddry (Hot Tub Time Machine) as Celeste’s overprotective chauffeur and Kristen Bell (The Boss) as the cat-loving manager of the frozen yogurt shop where Maximo finally lands a job. They all have their moments.

 I’d like to give a special mention to young Mckenna Grace who I think is headed for stardom. She was great as a child math prodigy in this month’s Gifted (still playing at area theaters). She isn’t given too much to do in How to Be a Latin Lover but does well with it nonetheless. She’s a feisty little charmer, that one. As Hugo, Alejandro is pretty good. He makes a good comic sidekick for Maximo who calls him “Minimo” once he starts his Latin lover training, a program that includes learning to walk like a stud. Speaking of which, clips of Derbez and the kid walking the walk with regular people are shown (along with bloopers, of course) during the end credits. It’s the best part of How to Be a Latin Lover. If only the rest of the movie had that energy and spontaneity. This is one of those movies you watch at home on a slow weeknight if there’s nothing better on TV although I’d be hard-pressed to choose between it and a Fantasy Island marathon. At least that one has Kahn in it.

 

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