Rated PG-13 | Time: 1:55
By ANNLEE ELLINGSON
Los Angeles Times
Spanish with subtitles
Mexican TV star Eugenio Derbez breaks into feature filmmaking in Instructions Not Included, a sweet, funny and poignant comedy that he directs, co-writes and co-produces. (The film opened in limited markets last weekend but became a surprise hit with $10.4 million the best debut for a Spanish-language film in the U.S.)
Derbez also stars as Valentín, an Acapulco playboy whose bachelor lifestyle screeches to a halt when one of his tourist lovers shows up on his doorstep with a baby his baby.
The movies Spanish title translates as No Returns Accepted, a much more appropriate description of this story about a daughter no one wants the mother, Julie (Jessica Lindsey), flees, and Valentín follows her to the United States to attempt to return the kid. Six years later, when Valentín has established a lucrative career as a stuntman, and baby Maggie (the perfectly bilingual Loreto Peralta) has grown into a blue-eyed, blond-haired bundle of delight, Julie tracks him down, ready to be a part of her daughters life.
Aimed squarely at a Latino audience theres at least one joke centered on a Mexican song that English-only speakers may not get, despite subtitles Instructions Not Included nonetheless speaks to universal themes about love, fear, parenthood and death.
The performances are stylishly cartoonish, and an aggressive score pushes the script toward melodrama, but theres a lot of movie here with unexpected developments, held together by the irresistible chemistry between Derbez and his adorable pint-sized co-star.
(At the Barrywoods, Merriam, Palazzo and Ward Parkway.)
| Annlee Ellingson, Los Angeles Times