- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 17, 2003

What do you get when you take one hunkish, slow-witted Joe Millionaire clone and put him in a movie with three hack actresses? You get "Chasing Papi."
Then you get a headache and a bad case of the squirms.
"Chasing Papi" is being billed as a watershed in movie marketing, a harbinger of cross-cultural, bilingual movies targeted at the mushrooming Hispanic population, while also appealing to the wider English-speaking public.
If that's the case, director Linda Mendoza is off to a bad start. This spoonful of slapstick pap has little chance of amusing anybody, regardless of their ethnicity.
It's an equal opportunity, Pan-American fiasco.
"Papi" is an affectionate nickname for Tomas Fuentes (Eduardo Verastegui), a Los Angeles advertising executive who looks like he walked out of an underwear ad. He's juggling three different girlfriends in three cities, and mistakenly invites all of them to L.A. the same weekend.
There's a genteel Chicago lawyer, Lorena, played by Roselyn Sanchez. (Didn't I just see her in "Boat Trip"? Yes, and she's even worse here); Cici, a buxom, tough-talking Miami cocktail waitress (Sofia Vergara); and Patricia, a bratty, unemployed New York trust-fund baby (Jaci Velasquez).
They all love Papi, and Papi loves them. In fact, he can't bring himself to choose between them, the poor muchacho.
Mr. Verastegui has little acting experience, aside from a few Mexican soap operas, and it shows. Miss Mendoza and her legion of screenwriters, however, came up with a canny solution: knocking him out for nearly the entire movie.
So stressed is Papi by maintaining all three of his Latina lovers that he munches a half-bottle of tranquilizers when they all show up at his doorstep. You gotta love the practicality: Need pretty face. Pretty face can't act. What to do? … Brainstorm. Got it. He'll be asleep for an hour.
With Papi out cold and the three women at each other's throats, Miss Mendoza, a TV director making a rocky feature-film debut, turns "Papi" into a thready, slapdash patchwork of sitcom farce.
Turns out there's a bagful of cash in Cici's trunk, and she's being trailed by an FBI agent (Lisa Vidal). The girls then get mixed up with a couple of bumbling goons involved in some sort of unspecified shady business.
None of this matters very much, however. The point of "Papi" is for the women scorned to discover their own unique gifts and to assert their independence, to "find themselves" in a new age, post-feminist sort of way.
Lorena gets mistaken for a beauty queen; Cici gets to dance; Patricia gets a job; and Papi, when he finally comes to, gets dumped.
They are women, hear them meow.
"Papi" should never have left the house. It belongs in the cutting-room kitchen, barefoot and, I hope, barren.


TITLE: "Chasing Papi"
RATING: PG (sensuality and mild profanity)
CREDITS: Directed by Linda Mendoza. Music by Emilio Estefan Jr. and Carlos Ponce.
RUNNING TIME: 90 minutes

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