How To Be A Latin Lover


            It's really difficult to sustain comedy over an entire movie.  “How to Be A Latin Lover” manages to just avoid degenerating into silliness by infusing a bit of family drama, but also figuring out how to be tender-hearted and funny at the same time.

            Maximo (Eugenio Derbez) and his sister Sara (Salma Hayek) grew up poor, because their father fell asleep at the wheel.  Literally.  And crashed his truck into their house, and afterwards they lived with their Mom in their beat-up car, where she sang along with sad songs on the radio until she cried.

            Maximo tells Sara that when he grows up, he's not going to work.  He's going to figure out a way to be so rich he doesn't have to work.  Well, Maximo does grow up to be a handsome young man, which he shamelessly uses to seduce a rich widow.  25 years later, Maximo still does nothing, and enjoys every moment of his idleness.  His only friend seems to be another golddigger, played by Rob Lowe.  Maximo is estranged from his sister, because he didn't bother to go to their mother's funeral, and didn't even bother to visit when she had her son, Hugo (Raphael Alejandro), much less when Hugo's father died.  Hugo, now 10 years old, still writes to his Dad, as a way of keeping his memory alive.

            Maximo is completely selfish, but it doesn't bother him.  Nothing does, until suddenly his rich wife decides that she's trading him in for a younger model.  Maximo can't believe it.  Now he's out on the street with nothing, because of a pre-nup agreement, and because, well, he never thought he'd be in this position so he wasn't prepared when it happened.

            Having nowhere to go, he shows up at Sara's, and she reluctantly takes him in temporarily, but insists that he find a job.  But Maximo doesn't figure he's cut out for selling yogurt or holding advertising signs on street corners.  So he naturally tries to make a play, the same way he did before, only this time, of course, he's lost his youth and his looks, and it doesn't work like before.  All he succeeds in doing is borrowing money he doesn't have, which eventually winds up affecting his almost-recovering relationship with Sara. 

            Some of the comic bits are a bit overdone, some don't seem to quite hit the mark, and some are just hilarious.  There's a lot of poignancy here about people who are stumbling around trying to figure things out and making a mess of it.  There's some genuine family affection, despite the frustration of unmet expectation, because, well, they're family.

            There's also the dynamic of playing to an Hispanic audience, while including the gringos by speaking the dialogue in English, and adding subtitles when the screen characters adroitly switch to Spanish.  It's a feel-good comedy with a light touch of parody, a little bit of slapstick, and some “situational humor” that we all recognize as the foibles of being human.


Questions for Discussion:

1)                  Which relatives would you not let in, if they showed up at your door?

2)                  Which relatives would you rather keep away from your kids?

3)                  Romantically speaking, how has it gone for you to try to get back in the saddle after you've been thrown off the horse?


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association