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How To Be A Latin Lover: Juvenile and Forward Thinking?



How To Be A Latin Lover. To be honest, I cringed when I first saw the title. Billy and I are coming up on ten years of marriage, and every once in a while I still get the "Latin lover" (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) stuff. How can I say? It's not my favorite.

But then I became intrigued. The star of the film is Eugenio Derbez, a Mexican movie star. In Billy's words: “He’s so famous. He’s so funny. I mean, he’s the Spanish voice of the donkey in Shrek!” And I really loved his 2013 movie Instructions Not Included, which became the highest grossing Spanish-language film at the U.S. box office.

How To Be A Latin Lover, however, is an English release with plenty of Spanish and subtitles in the mix. According the IMDB, it's the first American film to be simultaneously released in English and dubbed in Spanish. A fact we discovered when arrived for our 5:30 pm #datenight to the theater, only to discover it was a Spanish showing without English subtitles. So we had to wait until the next English presentation because I don't know enough Spanish and Billy is not a fan of dubbing.

So what did I think?  I think the movie was fine. (How's that for a raving review?) There were definitely funny parts. Autocorrect and its effect on text messaging threats being one of my favorites. ("Give us the money or we'll lick your a$$" *kick) And we shared the theater with a loud laugh-er, so it made the movie's humor even funnier.

But I also can't say I loved it. It relied on crude humor (farting, crotch-grabbing, man in wheelchair being hit by a car, etc) in many places, which is not really my style, though I know many people love it. And the plot overall was about an adult man who seduces wealthy women-of-age to support him. Probably not a movie I personally would've chosen had it not been for the cultural elements.

However, I'm still glad I saw it. First of all, I am impressed with Derbez's ability to marry the humor and the heart-warming. Similar to Instructions Not Included, his relationship with the child actor was touching and precious without being cheesy.

I also think there's something ahead of its time about the movie. At a moment when the national narrative seems to be "Immigrants aren't welcome" and "English only," this film told a different story. Though the headliner was a Mexican moviestar who may be unknown to many U.S. moviegoers, the cast was full of familiar names for U.S. audiences, including Salma Hayek, Kristen Bell, and Rob Lowe.

And bilingualism was on full display. There were definitely jokes I didn't fully get because of my limited language. At one point, I heard Billy muttering during a subtitled conversation that a joke wasn't translated well. Which, can we just pause to acknowledge that this observation means that he was listening in Spanish and reading in English simultaneously?!?! My mind is just a little bit blown.

I love seeing a film break out of the racial and cultural silos to include a diverse cast and a healthy mix of languages. And even though the content of this one may have not been my favorite, I'm glad I spent my money to support it as I hope to see more movies that bridge these gaps coming to a theater near me!

A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.