I’ll just say it. How to Be a Latin Lover is a stupid name for a film. It inspired eye rolls from the get go rather than entice its audience. The film has brief, shining moments when it overcomes the clunky name but overall this comedy errs on the side of silly and plays it safe.
After losing their father at a young age in a freak accident (played for laughs), Maximo (Eugenio Derbez) and Sara (Salma Hayek) are led down very different paths. Maximo decides he doesn’t want to work for a living and gets his wish when he charms and marries an incredibly rich woman decades older than him. Sara, on the other hand, settles down, has a son, and pursues her dream of becoming an architect. When Maximo’s elderly wife cheats on him with a younger man (Michael Cera), Maximo, broke and homeless, moves back in with his sister he’s ignored for decades while scoping out potential new rich, elderly wives to marry.
As hard as it tries, nothing in this film feels all that interesting. Derbez does a fine job of leading the film with charm and puppy-dog enthusiasm in a comedy full of poop jokes and wacky hijinks. Hayek’s Sara is appropriately straight-laced and exasperated at her playboy brother while her adorable son Hugo (played by Raphael Alejandro) gives some serious Jonathan Lipnicki in Jerry Maguire vibes. Rob Lowe is perfectly cast as a fellow male moocher and Maximo’s best friend, but does anyone actually believe Rob Lowe is as funny as he thinks he is?
How to Be a Latin Lover is the film directorial debut for Ken Marino, primarily known for his acting in television shows like Childrens Hospital, Marry Me, and Burning Love. Marino seems to have called in every favor he has to have all of his comedy friends appear in the film. What else explains seeing the likes of Kristen Bell, Michael Cera, Weird Al, Rob Corddry, Rob Huebel, and Rob Riggle in a film with a relatively unknown lead? And one that switches between English and Spanish at that!
The strongest moments of How to Be a Latin Lover come not from the comedy, but from the family. Having a comedic lead realize that family is important and that there’s more to life than money is far from an original plot line. But tie that together with the importance of family in Hispanic culture and package it with the heartwarming chemistry of Derbez, Hayek, and Alejandro, and you’ve got some truly touching and entertaining scenes. Whether its Maximo taking the time to learn about his nephew’s science project or him and Sara getting drunk and salsa dancing to sad songs, you can’t help but be charmed by their little family. It’s a saving grace in a film that otherwise doesn’t hold up.
How to Be a Latin Lover won’t win any groundbreaking awards, but it’s a perfectly acceptable and charming comedy to get us through the spring slump before summer blockbusters.