Last fall, I was stunned to hear that a movie I had never heard of (and I’ve heard of almost every movie that gets a theatrical release) had become the highest grossing Spanish-language film in the U.S. I remember thinking that I probably wasn’t part of the target audience and/or the marketing team gave up on English speakers wanting to see Instructions Not Included. I got the impression that it must have been second-rate, kind of like those faith-based movies that have plagued the theaters lately (You know, the ones where people who don’t believe in God are stupidheads), where only the converted need to see them. Additionally, it was categorized as a “comedy” in something I read. Being in Spanish, images of all the bad Spanish-language TV I’ve watched, with all the midget and strippers dancing together and all that, came to mind. So I quickly forgot about the film.
Months later, several people recommended Instructions Not Included to my wife. At the time and when we got around to watching it, it was only on disc. Now that it’s on streaming, you should check it out as well.
Instructions Not Included tells the story of Valentin Bravo, Acapulco’s local playboy whose amorous ways meet an end when a former fling named Julie leaves him with a baby girl. Valentin goes to L.A. to find Julie to give back the baby, Maggie. When a movie director witnesses Valentin saving Maggie in a spectacular fashion, he hires him as a stuntman. Unable to locate Julie, Valentin settles down in L.A. with Maggie and becomes an unlikely father figure.
There’s much more to the movie than that (which makes it sound like One Man and a Baby), but if you read my reviews before, I don’t like spoilers, especially when it comes to comedies (To this day, I don’t know if I was underwhelmed by There’s Something About Mary because of the hype or because an obnoxious co-worker of mine decided to tell everyone about the best parts/gags). This is more of a melodramedy, sweet-natured in the way comedies of the 30s and 40s were. There’s some sadness to it, some laughs, someone making it “big” in Hollywood, and the cinematography makes everything look so clean (In the Acapulco scenes, the sun seems brighter than anywhere else on the planet). Eugenio Derbez deserves his role. He carries the film and hits all the right notes. Loreto Peralta as his daughter, Maggie is actually very good in her role. She’s not too cutesy or “precious.” She’s just a likable kid.
As for the ending, I felt I should have seen it coming. But it’s the sign of a good film that I was wrapped up in the story and cared enough about the characters I wasn’t trying to figure out what would happen next. I recommend seeing Instructions Not Included.
IMDb rating: 7 out of 10
Netflix rating: 4 out of 5