A Million to Juan
1994 Directed by Paul Rodriguez. Starring Paul Rodriguez, Ruben Blades, Polly Draper, Cheech Marin, Edward James Olmos, Paul Williams.
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., May 20, 1994
Unlike the ongoing boom in films made by and aimed (primarily) at African-Americans, we haven't seen much of the same trend at work in the Latino community. I'm not sure why this is, so I'm not going to hazard a guess at this point, but comedian Paul Rodriguez has taken a laudable step in the right direction with his directorial debut. Unfortunately, it's no masterpiece. Rodriguez plays Juan, a streetcorner orange vendor in East Los Angeles, who, thanks to the Immigration and Naturalization Service's outdated bureaucracy, is considered an illegal alien even though he was born in the U.S. When a stranger (Blades) in a limousine pulls up to his corner one day and hands the hapless Juan a check for $1,000,000, his world is forever changed, and his perceptions on the meaning of life and friendship are severely challenged. Rodriguez has painted his character in the broadest possible strokes: early on we find out that Juan is a widower who dotes on his young son and dreams of perhaps owning his own business. He's unflawed, the nicest guy in the barrio, kind to animals and unfamiliar with tequila (and a great cook, to boot). He's so wonderful, in fact, that he ends up a cartoon version of earthbound sainthood and that leads to a maddeningly predictable, and ultimately yawn-filled, 90 minutes. Rodriguez's comic sensibilities are usually razor-keen, but here, blunted by a cliché-riddled storyline and scattershot direction, they seem nonexistent. Supporting roles and cameos from Olmos, Blades, and Marin are used to ill effect as well. Nothing seems to be going anywhere, so perhaps a more honest retitling of Rodriguez's film is in order. May I suggest “A Million to Yawn?”