How to Be a Latin Lover

Posted on April 27, 2017 at 10:40 pm

Copyright 2017 Sony

I like everyone connected with this movie so much that I am especially sorry to give it a bad review. Mexican star Eugenio Derbez is a wonderfully engaging performer with enormous warmth and charm, as we saw in “Miracles From Heaven,” where he played the doctor. The supporting cast includes Salma Hayek, Kristen Bell, Rob Riggle, Raquel Welch, Michael Cera, Michaela Watkins, Rob Lowe, and even Weird Al Yankovic. The director is the very funny Ken Marino (“Burning Love”). And it introduces a terrific young actor, Raphael Alejandro, who is the highlight of every scene he is in. But all of that talent cannot overcome a painfully unfunny script by Chris Spain and Jon Zack.

In the opening scene, a young brother and sister see their father drive into their house, creating an explosion that kills him and destroys their home. There’s a way to start a comedy!

This is an important lesson in the uncertainty of life, which the boy interprets as: Find a wealthy lover and be pampered for as long as you live.

As a healthy and handsome young man (played by Derbez’s very attractive young son), Maximo woos a wealthy, middle-aged lady (Renee Taylor). Twenty-five years later, Maximo (now played by Derbez) is living a blissful Richie Rich life, except that he has to sleep with a very old lady. A battalion of servants attends to his every wish, even turning his poolside lounger to follow the sun or turning the pages of his e-reader. He never even has to take a step: he glides through the mansion on a hoverboard. The most exercise he gets every day is reaching over to his wife every morning so he can put a mirror under her nose to see if she is still breathing. And maybe pointing to the new sportscar he says he is buying for her but is really buying for himself.

Unfortunately, the car salesman sells himself along with the car, and Maximo is out on the street with nothing but a faint memory of an ironclad pre-nup. He needs a new old lady to marry, and until then he needs a place to stay. Which is how he ends up knocking on the door of his sister Sara (Hayek), a widow with a young son, Hugo (Alejandro). Many slapstick encounters ensue, including a guy in a wheelchair getting hit by a car three different times, a tenderhearted girl getting shredded by her cats, but mostly about Maximo helping Hugo talk to Arden, the girl he has a crush on (Mckenna Grace of “Gifted”) so he can make a move on Arden’s rich grandma, played by Raquel Welch. Yes, let that sink in for a moment: Raquel Welch. Also, some guys want to beat him up but I don’t need to say why because you can assume that pretty much everyone is on their side by this point. I’m guessing you will be, too, when I explain that in addition to the wheelchair “joke,” it is also supposed to be humorous that Maximo removes a disabled character’s prostheses and that when he tries to dye his hair with shoe polish and dives into the pool, everyone things, well, you know what’s hard to tell from Shinola. I’d say the same for this screenplay.

Parents should know that this movie has material that pushes the limits of PG-13 with a lot of crude humor and comic peril and violence. There is very strong language, some to a child, alcohol, sexual references and situations, and “humor” about disabilities.

Family discussion: Was any of Maximo’s advice to Hugo worth following? Why did Maximo choose that career?

If you like this, try: “Stuck on You” and “Shallow Hal”

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Monster Trucks

Posted on January 12, 2017 at 5:21 pm

Copyright Paramount 2016
Copyright Paramount 2016
When my son was eight, he and his friends would have loved this movie. That is just one of the reasons I enjoyed “Monster Trucks,” a charming fantasy in the always-appealing genre of a young person befriending and being befriended by a creature even more powerful than whatever adults are around. Plus, big trucks. So, think “Pokemon” with wheels, “Fast and Furious” for kids, “Speed Racer” with a plot you can follow, and “Free Willy” for gearheads with a touch of “Scooby-Doo.”

Tripp (Lucas Till, game but about eight years too old to play a teenager) lives in North Dakota with his mom (a barely seen Amy Ryan) and still misses the dad who abandoned them (Frank Whalley, suitably seedy). He does not like his mother’s boyfriend Rick (Barry Pepper), a cop who is fussy and by the book. And he does not like school, which he barely acknowledges. He spends much of his time working at the junkyard run by Mr. Weathers (Danny Glover) and spending his spare time using the parts he finds there to build a truck he can drive.

Nearby, a big oil drilling company run by ruthless Reece Tenneson (Rob Lowe) is under pressure to produce. Their scientists locate a water table above the oil reserve. Under environmental and endangered species laws, they should not drill without further investigation. But Reece insists they go ahead, and the drilling releases three squid-like creatures who live on oil. They capture two, but the third escapes and ends up in Mr. Weathers’ junkyard, where Tripp is at first terrified, then fascinated, then, after they bond over throwing stones at one of Reese’s trucks together, captivated by a creature he names, without much imagination, Creech.

Somehow, the best way to hide and transport Creech turns out to be using him as the engine of a tricked-up truck with big wheels. Soon Tripp and his classmate (Jane Levy as Meredith) are on the run to keep Creech from being captured by Reece’s enforcer, Burke (Holt McCallany) so they can poison the creatures and keep drilling for oil.

There’s nothing new here, but it is good-natured fun, with special effects that seamlessly integrate Creech into the action. It would have been nice to see Meredith as something more than the brainy girl with a crush and a credit card, and the film is half-hearted at best when it comes to Tripp’s careless treatment of a kid who wants to be his friend, expecting us to laugh at his presumption. As a January Saturday matinee or an outing for a third grade birthday party, it hits the spot.

Parents should know that this film has extended mild peril, with chase scenes and threats. No one is badly hurt. There is some schoolyard language and brief bodily function humor.

Family discussion: What qualities of the creatures made Jim decide they were worth saving?

If you like this, try: “Transformers” and “Free Willy” — and a Monster Truck rally!

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Original Version: About Last Night…

Posted on February 9, 2014 at 7:42 am

First there was a play about what was not then yet called “hookup culture” or “booty calls” by pre-“Glengarry Glen Ross”/”The Verdict” David Mamet.  The title was “Sexual Perversity in Chicago.”  Both the title and the script were softened for a 1986 movie starring Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Jim Belushi, and Elizabeth Perkins.  The remake opening this week stars Kevin Hart, Regina Hall, Michael Ealy, and Joy Bryant.
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Comedy For Your Netflix Queue Original Version Romance
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