“No se Aceptan Devoluciones”
(English & Spanish with English Subtitles)
Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V -1; L -3; S/N -4.
Running time: 2 hours 2 min.
If my father and mother forsake me,
the Lord will take me up.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear…
1 John 4.18
Latin America’s best-known actor Eugenio Derbez directs and stars in this offbeat comedy about an Acapulco playboy who suddenly becomes a father when one of his one-night stands tricks him, leaving him with their infant daughter. Valentin (Derbez) chases every female he finds attractive, but finds himself holding the bag when he answers the knock on his door and Julie (Jessica Lindsey) hands him what she claims is their daughter, Maggie. She even stiffs him for $10 which she says she owes for cab fare. She goes downstairs, ostensibly to pay the cabbie, but never comes back.
Valentine is definitely not the fatherly type, especially when it is diaper-changing time. Knowing only that Julie has been in Los Angeles, he sets off to find her, equipped with just a photo of her teaching an aerobics class. She is nowhere to be found, but then he inadvertently lands a job as a movie stuntman despite his fear of heights and his ignorance of English. In flashbacks we see that Valentine’s father had tried to overcome his son’s fears, which are depicted as fierce wolves, through tough love—in one instance he drops his young son from a cliff into the sea so that he will learn to swim. When Valentine is high up in a hotel room looking down at the recreation court, he sees the infant crawling toward the swimming pool. To save the baby from drowning he takes the quickest route down—he jumps over the balcony and into the pool, snatching Maggie from danger. Studio producer Frank Ryan (Daniel Raymont), who is looking for a stuntman, witnesses this and promptly hires him.
As Maggie (Loreto Peralta) grows during the following six years, she becomes her father’s interpreter and studio agent and coach. A very smart girl! Much of the humor is involved in her negotiating deals with Ryan for stunts that her terrified father at first refuses to perform. By now Valentine has given his heart to the child, perhaps too much, or rather, not too wisely, judging by the living room of their apartment. Someone observes that it looks like a toy store, and so it does, the large toys—a slide, ride-in cars, and much more long since driving out any furniture.
Imagine their surprise when Mom shows up after six years and wants to regain custody. We might expect the two to fall in love during their tussle over the girl, but an unexpected plot development quickly dispels this. Indeed, the film becomes more serious in its last half, not just because of a courtroom custody battle, but also a development for which we were given a clue earlier. So much better than the usual Hollywood summer comedy (though there are a few gross incidents), this heart-felt tale will leave you with a big lump in your throat at its unorthodox ending!
The full review with a set of 7 questions for reflection or discussion will appear in the November issue of Visual Parables, which will be available toward the end of October. If you are a subscriber and plan to discuss this film with a group, contact the edior, and he can send you the full review.