Review: ‘How To Be A Latin Lover’

A little naughty, a little sentimental. That’s what you get with How to Be a Latin Lover, a comedy that looks to push 50-plus-year-old Mexican star Eugenio Derbez further into the mainstream. He struck gold with 2013’s Instructions Not Included, a comedy that would become the highest-grossing Spanish-language film to be released in the United States. His latest ditches instructions and goes with Cliff’s Notes to teach audiences on how to achieve your dreams the easiest way possible. Unfortunately, the notes don’t come with a contingency plan.

Seeing how much his father worked to provide for the family and how physically taxing it was, young Maximo knew early on that he would not follow suit. Maximo had a different plan: He wanted a sugar mama. Flash forward a decade and Maximo (in a scene played by Derbez’s real-life son) spots his mark, Peggy (Renee Taylor), the elderly heir to one of the largest supermarket chains in the U.S. Wearing a yellow speedo the size equivalent to smuggling something illegal through customs, oozing charm and dripping chlorinated water, he walks up to her as she lounges by a hotel pool and says, “Do I make you wet?”

Those five words were all it took for Maximo to be set for life…or so he thought. Twenty five years later Maximo’s (Eugenio Derbez) machismo has vanished, his svelte physique is now more carb-loaded than a bowl of chips and salsa, and his days of being pampered with massages and a butler who swipes his iPad while he relaxes in a bubble bath are finished all because Peggy has traded up for a much younger model, er, car salesman (Michael Cera as arm candy?). Maximo believes he’s entitled to half of everything because he didn’t sign a prenuptial agreement, just a prenup. Oops.

Homeless, penniless, and no job skills Maximo visits his sister, Sara (Salma Hayek), a widowed mom trying to manage her work career as an architect and that of a parent to 10-year-old Hugo (newcomer Raphael Alejandro). It’s been so long since Maximo has seen Sara that he’s surprised that Hugo is a boy, not a girl like he originally thought.

There’s a certain awkwardness as Maximo encroaches upon his younger sister (to whom he repeatedly claims is older than him) and nephew, taking up residence in Hugo’s room on an air mattress. But once the ineptitude is dialed back an endearing relationship develops between Maximo and Hugo as the uncle educates the young lad on just how far sweet talk and swagger will help in life or, more precisely, make him more interesting to Arden (Gifted’s McKenna Grace), the girl he has a crush.

Come to find out Maximo’s skills as a Latin lothario are dated and his mentoring isn’t without purpose: He’s quite taken by the girl’s grandmother (Raquel Welch). Not the grandmother per se but her wealth. Where one honey pot closes its jar another is there to sweeten the deal for Maximo and possibly be his new sugar mama.

You have to credit Eugenio Derbez for stretching a joke about egotism and spoiled self-entitlement and having it work for the most part. How to Be a Latin Lover has moments that are generally funny. Maximo’s fall from spoiled gigolo grace and trying to find support with best friend Rick (Rob Lowe), another aging boy toy that will take horse tranquilizers or dress up as a pizza delivery boy to arouse Linda Lavin (yes, Alice from Alice), allows for some fun. Wait until you hear Rick’s phone ringer when Maximo calls. Though don’t overlook Salma Hayek who has great back-and-forth chemistry with Derbez, be it slapping him in the back of the head or doing the salsa.

I don’t know if there was a call sheet bargain on actors named Rob but this comedy has a total of four. Besides Lowe, we have Rob Huebel and Rob Riggle as a pair of dumb and dumber business owners who specialize in car-wrap advertising to promote local strip clubs. Maximo’s ordeal with an overdue debt with these two provides a humorous but unnecessary subplot to the story. The final Rob is Rob Corddry, who plays Welch’s personal chauffer. His screen time is short but offers a satisfactory payoff. Kristen Bell drops the Frozen tiara to wear a managerial cap of a frozen yogurt shop called FROYOLO. No, really, it’s called FROYOLO. She’s even does a jingle.   

But then you have humor that falls flat (pull-my-finger jokes, a bad experience with shoe polish) or are too dark that you wonder if writers Chris Spain and Jon Zack were looking to push the envelope just far enough and still be a PG-13 rated comedy. For his feature directorial debut Ken Marino (Childrens Hospital; Victor from Wet Hot American Summer) has issues with pacing – the narrative tends to sag more than a mature floozy with arm flab – but the comedic ensemble and star Eugenio Derbez deliver just enough laughs to merit a viewing. See it with your sugar mama while enjoying a Sugar Daddy.

Director: Ken Marino
Writer: Chris Spain and Jon Zack
Cast: Eugenio Derbez, Salma Hayek, Rob Lowe, Kristen Bell, Raquel Welch, Rob Corddry, Rob Riggle, Raphael Alejandro, Renee Taylor, Rob Huebel, Michael Cera, McKenna Grace, Linda Lavin
Rating: PG-13 (for crude humor, sexual references and gestures, and for brief nudity)
Running Time:  115 minutes

1 Comment

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