- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 27, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The entertaining, craftily realized “How to Be a Latin Lover” stars veteran Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez as Maximo, an aging Lothario fond of scamming rich women of a certain age into marriage in order to reap the benefits upon their passing. However, as the film, co-written by Chris Spain and Jon Zack, opens, Maximo finds that his raisin of a wife is leaving him for a much, much younger man (Michael Cera, for once not playing a loser). Furthermore, Maximo has failed to realize that the prenup he signed leaves him with nothing.

And so back out on his tush Maximo goes after two decades of “marriage.” At first he seeks refuge with his best buddy (Rob Lowe), who has an absolutely hilarious ringtone on his cell that I wouldn’t dream of spoiling for you, and a wife whose sexual fantasies involving her husband border at first on the absurd, and later the riotously demeaning.

Turned out after a particularly uncomfortable moment with the couple’s daughter, Maximo finds his way to his estranged sister Sara (Salma Hayek), a single mother raising Maximo’s 10-year-old nephew Hugo (Raphael Alejandro). So long has it been since he’s last seen them, that Maximo is surprised that Hugo is no longer a baby, let alone a preteen.

“How to Be a Latin Lover” follows in the long tradition of overgrown cinematic men-children who, despite their years, have much growing up yet to do. As Maximo tries to instill in Hugo the values of “gaming” girls, Maximo remains on the prowl for the next biddy to swindle. Much of this is standard-issue plot technique, but director Ken Marino, primarily known as an actor, mines the situations for all laughs possible. There are genuinely funny moments throughout, such as when Maximo uses too much of a particular hair dyeing product that he doesn’t realize has a weakness for water until too late.

Mr. Marino has sprinkled the cast with comedy regulars such as Mr. Cera, Rob Riggle (once again, applying his real-life Marine Corps training to scream in the face of someone much smaller than he), Rob Corddry and Kristen Bell as a particularly peppy ice cream store employee.

Movies too often try to be shocking rather than funny, and what “How to Be a Latin Lover” does, it does exceptionally well; its laughter is genuine and comes from the situations, the characters and is never pandering. Mr. Derbez’s Maximo is a lovable loser who thinks he’s a winner, and Mr. Derbez brings humanity to a performance that otherwise could have been a standard flagging movie Casanova a bit too in love with himself.

He and Miss Hayek have wonderful sibling chemistry, and even young Raphael Alejandro holds his own against such seasoned actors.

And did I mention Mr. Lowe’s cellphone ringtone? Trust me on this.

Opens Thursday at District-area cinemas.

Rated PG-13. Contains saucy language, real and faux scatological gags, spray tans and banana hammocks. In English and occasional Spanish (with subtitles).


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