The Austin Chronicle

Instructions Not Included

Rated PG-13, 115 min. Directed by Eugenio Derbez. Starring Eugenio Derbez, Jessica Lindsey, Loreto Peralta, Daniel Raymont, Alessandra Rosaldo.

REVIEWED By Louis Black, Fri., Sept. 6, 2013

This latest example of commercial theatrical cinema success scored by playing to an underserved U.S. market during its opening weekend. The Mexican comedy, Instructions Not Included became a surprise hit. Mexican TV star Eugenio Derbez stars in the film, as well as directing, co-writing, and co-producing.

Playboy Valentín (Derbez), the romantic scourge of Acapulco, is all the rage until Julie, a former girlfriend (Lindsey), leaves him with their baby. Suddenly, he is a father. He leaves Mexico for the states where, almost accidentally, he becomes a successful stunt man. Earning a lucrative income as a single parent, he raises Maggie (Peralta), his daughter. They live in a childlike world of toys and eating morning cereal in matching pajamas. There is a sweet and very real chemistry between the two, with each of them being both child and adult.

Unexpectedly, after six years or so, Julie, the child’s mother reappears. In the interim, she has become a successful lawyer. At first, she is content to leave things as they are; she and her female partner Reneé (Rosaldo) occasionally visit Valentín and Maggie as a kind of extended family. Soon, however, Julie falls in love with Maggie (who is pleased to have a mom), and wants to take the child away to raise her.

What was a comedy becomes a drama with many courtroom scenes reminding one of nothing so much as Kramer vs. Kramer. Charming and entertaining, if overlong and a bit too melodramatic, Instructions ultimately works because of the cast.

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