If you just see the ads or select stills from the recently released comedy How To Be a Latin Lover, you’d get the impression that this is some kind of raunchy, R-rated sex comedy … and you’d be completely wrong. The movie stars Eugenio Derbez (making his English-language film debut) as Maximo, a middle-aged man who made his way through life as the boy toy of a very wealthy woman (Renée Taylor). But when she tosses him aside for a younger model (Michael Cera) after 25 years, Maximo has nothing to his name and nowhere to go. His fellow boy toy Rick (Rob Lowe) has nowhere for him to stay since his sugar mama (Linda Lavin) needs every room in their mansion free at all times for her role playing sex games, so he suggests Maximo’s sister Sara (Salma Hayek). Except they’ve been estranged for many years. He gives it a shot and she allows him to stay, for one night, but as he becomes a vital part of her son’s life (her husband has passed away), Maximo seems to have finally found the family he was looking for … and then he screws it all up, putting that new life in jeopardy.
I really didn’t know what to expect from How To Be a Latin Lover, especially after the last Pantelion film I reviewed (Compadres, whose star Omar Chaparro has a cameo here), and I honestly only wanted to see it because it featured Raquel Welch in her first major big screen appearance since Legally Blonde in 2001! But in the end I was pleasantly surprised by the movie’s humor and it’s genuine charm that came out of the family dynamic between Maximo, his sister and nephew Hugo (Raphael Alejandro), who could have been one of those annoyingly precocious movie kids, but totally isn’t which also works in the movie’s favor. The main plot of the movie, hence the title, actually focuses on Maximo’s efforts to groom young Hugo out of his shyness so he can talk to a girl at school he has a crush on. But when Maximo sets eyes on the girl’s wealthy grandmother (Welch) he begins to subtly use Hugo to get to her, setting up the family conflict, and leading to a hilarious — and totally ridiculous — sight gag that Welch was totally game for (there is another hilarious gag with Maximo, shoe polish and a pool that almost got cut from the movie until test audiences named it their favorite moment). It makes absolutely zero sense, but it’s still pretty funny.
Derbez does a great job in his first English-language movie, always putting the viewer in Maximo’s corner even when he’s being a jerk (a well-intentioned jerk, that is). And his scenes with Alejandro are totally endearing. Derbez also has good chemistry with Hayek as the two butt heads over Hugo and Maximo’s interference in her own love life, or lack of one, and they come off as believable siblings, particularly when they’re going after each other in Spanish. The movie also features a whole host of cameos from familiar faces including Kristen Bell, Rob Corddry, Rob Riggle, Rob Huebel, Michaela Watkins, Ben Schwartz and Weird Al Yankovich, all thanks to director Ken Marino. And if you think they really lucked out in finding someone who really resembled a young Eugenio Derbez in the flashback scenes, it wasn’t luck, it was DNA as Derbez’s son Vadhir takes on the role (and seeing the two of them side-by-side in one of the Blu-ray’s extras is pretty amazing). Overall, How To Be a Latin Lover may not be the greatest comedy ever made, but it does have enough laughs and stars to make it worth your while.
The new Blu-ray from Lionsgate presents the film in a very sharp and colorful 1080p transfer, making the colors really pop and showing fine detail, which surprisingly even carries over to some of the older actors who may have requested a softer focus for their close-ups. Here, it all looks very natural and that is a refreshing change of pace. The DTS-HD Master 5.1 audio track makes great use of the surrounds with music, effects and crowd scenes, and the dialog is always clearly rendered front and center.
Extras on the Blu-ray include an audio commentary with Ken Marino, producer Ben Odell and editor John Daigle. Also featured are:
- Show Me Your Sexy! Learning To Be a Latin Lover (17:35), a standard promotional video featuring comments from the cast and director and a nice selection of clips and behind-the-scenes video.
- A Little Help From My Friends (11:10) features director Ken Marino talking about roping in his friends for cameos.
- Deleted and Extended Scenes (33:39) – A lengthy collection of scenes that very easily could have remained in the film but were most likely cut simply for time and pacing.
Overall, How To Be a Latin Lover may be a predictable comedy, but it’s ultimately sweet and affecting thanks in part to a fairly consistent script and Derbez’s performance, taking what could have been a totally unlikable character and making him very endearing. If you’re looking for something a little different but still familiar, you can’t go wrong with How To Be a Latin Lover.
Lionsgate generously provided Hotchka with a Blu-ray of the film for reviewing purposes.