By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
Valentin Bravo (Eugenio Derbez) is a man about town in Acapulco, Mexico. He takes advantage of the Tourist spot to go through more trysts than he can keep track of. He particularly focuses on Americans, using his inability to speak English to his advantage in endearing himself to them, by making him appear more exotic. He plays the field often, not because he’s particularly amorous, but because he fears commitment, which is why his world is turned upside down when an old flame appears out of nowhere, hands over a baby who she says is his, and skips town.
Stuck with a half-American child, Valentin crosses into the United States without a visa with the child, and attempts to find the mother. While he fails to find the mother, he decides to stay in America, knowing he’ll have a better way of making a living to provide for little Maggie.
Ok, “provide” may not be a strong enough word…
After seven years of living a comfortable life, his situation is once again turned upside-down when the mother comes back into the picture, and takes him to court for custody.
Actor/Writer/Director Eugenio Derbez is a massively well known comedian in Mexico, and on American Spanish-Language television. INI was a 12 year passion-project for the rising star, having a significantly larger budget than most Mexican films, due to its ambitious scope for a comedy and due to shooting in both Mexico and the United States.
Love and care went into the project in every aspect, and it feels like he genuinely wanted to create a film with crossover appeal. To his everlasting credit, the comedic elements of the film are generally well staged and creative, using a blend of slapstick and situational elements which he undoubtedly honed on Mexican television.
Which is very serious business (bee’s-nus?)
Derbez and young actress Loreto Peralta have fantastic chemistry as Father and Daughter. They play off of each other’s quirks quite well, and maintain a palatable sense of familial love for each other.
While I definitely admire the film’s attempt to blend comedy with drama, the dramatic elements fall somewhat flat. In his attempt to blend the two elements with roughly equal measure, director Derbez creates a series of tonal shifts which are most easily compared to Bollywood cinema (minus the extended musical sequences)
which is a plus or minus, depending on your outlook
At nearly 2 hours, and with more plot twists than a mystery thriller, this movie felt like it was trying to do 3 movies worth of story in one film. This translates to a movie that gets off to a very promising start, and loses steam over time. With some judicious edits, and some script rewrites to tighten the story, this could have been something really great.
The film has a tragic plot twist which feels needlessly forced in to make the movie a tear jerker. When it is is finally revealed, the audience finds themselves trying to search their memory for hints dropped along the way. While there are a couple, they don’t provide enough basis of understanding for such a sudden and sad turn of events. Without spoiling anything, suffice to say that symptoms which should have been a hint are more or less nonexistent.
Clearly the audiences have spoken, as this has been a surprise success at the box office. However, dramatically, this feels like a missed opportunity, with tone elements that really don’t gel with the comedy.
Take a Drink: when Valentin lies to Maggie about her mother
Take a Drink: when a wolf appears out of nowhere
Take a Drink: for prat falls.
Drink a Shot: for stereotypically evil caricature