Hot Take: It takes a little bit for this comedy to get going but once the laughs start coming, they don’t stop. How To Be A Latin Lover exudes joy in its performances and has an unexpectedly sweet center that is endearing.
Preconceived notions are the enemy of a lot of films. I know I walked into How To Be A Latin Lover expecting to find a lot wrong with the film based solely on the trailer. The film is about a man who decides he’s never going to work and, instead, find a rich woman to take care of his financial needs by giving her sexual attention. Come on! Can you blame me for expecting the worst?
Expecting something similar to Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, the opening of the film gave the impression that these expectations were going to be realized. However, as the backstory of Maximo (Eugenio Derbez) was fleshed out and he gets booted from his 25 year marriage when his sugar mama (Renée Taylor) decides to replace him with a younger specimen — the car salesman (Michael Cera) that sells the couple a Ferrari — the story and its laughs begin to flourish right before our eyes.
The down and out Maximo must turn to his sister Sara (Salma Hayek) who reluctantly allows him to stay with her and her 10-year old son Hugo (Raphael Alejandro) while he tries to get back on his feet… or at least his motorized mini scooter. Sara wants Maximo to get a job but he’s hell bent on getting his life back as a lazy gigolo and works with his best friend and fellow gigolo Rick (Rob Lowe) to come up with a plan. Meanwhile, Maximo begins to form a relationship with his sister and his nephew. He makes the mistake of getting himself in financial trouble when a harebrained scheme backfires and owes two brothers (Rob Riggle and Rob Huebel) who own a Car Wrap business. He devises a plan to meet the wealthy grandmother (Raquel Welch) of a classmate (Mckenna Grace) of Hugo’s by teaching Hugo the art of seduction.
From there, you can predict the rest. However, the storyline’s predictability isn’t a deal breaker here as Derbez has great comedic timing and the rest of the cast seemingly loves to interact with him on screen. It’s a rare bit of excellent chemistry from top to bottom. Derbez and Hayek are highly believable as a brother-sister combo with excess baggage. Derbez and Alejandro also have great rapport as Uncle Maximo begins the mentoring process and steps in as the father figure Hugo has sorely lacked. Maximo is completely inappropriate but his heart is in the right place.
How To Be A Latin Lover has some naughty overtones that contain some of the movie’s least funny bits. However, the goofy, likeable moments overshadow the tawdry stuff and even though Maximo isn’t very likeable, Derbez plays him with such charisma, it’s hard not to like him in the end. The film speaks volumes as to what a supreme comic talent Derbez is. Unfamiliar with his work outside of a bit part in Miracles from Heaven, How To Be A Latin Lover is a good sales pitch to double back to see 2013’s Instructions Not Included, the most successful Spanish language film in U.S. history which was written, directed and starred Derbez.
Despite all of my personal reservations, like Maximo, How To Be A Latin Lover grew on me to the point where I was actually pleasantly surprised with the overall film. I hate to compare Derbez to Adam Sandler but there’s a definite Sandler vibe to the comedy. There’s even a Sandler film — Big Daddy — which has a resemblance to this one. Derbez has a professionalism and conviction to his work that Sandler lacks. You never get the sense that Derbez is just goofing off and instead, he’s put a lot of fun and energy into this character that has a big payoff through the end result.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- That Sweet Center
As the movie progresses, Maximo wins the audience over much like he wins over his sister and nephew. At some point, this will make its way to cable and its a shame how easy it will be to turn this movie off within the first 15 minutes because I would have been tempted to given the option. If you hang in, the heart of the movie is in the right place and patience pays off with laughter.
- Kristen Bell
Bell has a small role as a cat-loving manager of a yogurt shop where Maximo eventually lands a job. Like Derbez, Bell has impeccable comedic timing and is a usual delight.
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Some Canned Comic Moments
Not everything How To Be A Latin Lover tries to do is a success. There are a few moments where you expect to hear a sitcomish laugh track over the comedy bits. It’s not often but it’s noticeable.