By Mark Saldana
Rating: 2.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
The name Eugenio Derbez is pretty well known among the citizens of Mexico, as well as Latino-Americans. The comedic actor has starred in many Spanish language films, and has made a few appearances in some English language ones. With How to Be A Latin Lover, Derbez gets his first starring role in a bilingual comedy. Helmed by comedian/actor Ken Marino (in his feature film debut as a director), the movie mostly uses Derbez talents well, but often falters when it comes to the comedic writing and some of the over-the-top performances by some of the supporting cast members. To its credit, the movie does deliver some genuine laughs, but might be better left for viewing at home.
Derbez stars as Maximo, a middle-aged trophy husband who lives comfortably with his wealthy and much older wife Peggy (Renee Taylor). Ever since a child, Maximo dreamed of becoming rich by seducing a wealthy older woman. While in his twenties he succeeds with his plan and manages to remains comfortably married to Peggy for many years until she decides to upgrade to a younger boy toy. Forced to fend for himself for the first time in decades, Maximo desperately reaches out to estranged sister Sara (Salma Hayek) who reluctantly takes him in, hoping that he will wise up and get a real job for a change. Maximo attempts, but fails at one scheme and manages to get a job at a frozen yogurt shop, but eventually decides to set his sights on a new target–Celeste (Raquel Welch) the grandmother of his nephew’s (Raphael Alejandro) classmate .
Written by Chris Spain and Jon Zack, Latin Lover definitely has its hilarious and moderately funny moments, but it also has some duds and gratingly over-the-top scenes. For a first time, feature film director, Ken Marino doesn’t do terribly, but does seem to have a little bit more to learn when it comes to getting some better performances from his actors. The movie has a certain degree of transparency, but is not completely predictable. To be fair, the movie does have much heart, especially in dealing with the subject of familial relationships and the lead actors deliver solid performances despite the limitations of the screenplay and direction.
Salma Hayek does deliver a performance with some passion and heart and Eugenio Derbez flexes his comedic chops deserving most of the laughs in the film. Derbez is skilled when performing physical comedy and also knows how to work his facial expressions and body language to great effect. The film also features fun appearances by Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Linda Lavin, Michael Cera, and Rob Corddry. Child actors Raphael Alejandro and McKenna Grace deliver adorably sweet performances. However, my biggest complaint with the acting comes from Rob Riggle and Rob Huebel who are the ones most guilty of some forceful, over-the-top scenes. They have some funny moments in the beginning, but their schtick gets old and annoying really fast.
And though this film is somewhat enjoyable, I don’t honestly feel that it deserves to be released theatrically. It is a movie that would have been fine for viewing at home via streaming or rental. The story and comedy are not so exceptional that I would encourage rushing to the theater to pay top prices to see it on the big screen. Eugenio Derbez is a comedic talent, no doubt, but he needs a better film to make a huge splash as a crossover artist.