There are plenty of quality laughs to be had in “How to Be A Latin Lover,” a slapstick film from first time movie director Ken Marino that puts the classic rags to riches story into reverse. Yes, it’s been done to death and no, there’s nothing new here, but there are bouts of genius absurdist humor and funny physical comedy that makes this one worth seeing.
The film tells the story of aging, lazy gigolo Maximo (Eugenio Derbez), a man in his mid-forties who has been spoiled by two decades of being the “trophy husband” of affluent 75 year old sugar mama Peggy (Renée Taylor). When Peggy suddenly leaves him for a young luxury car salesman (Michael Cera), Maximo finds himself homeless and in need of a job. Luckily his estranged sister Sara (Salma Hayek) lives nearby with her nerdy son Hugo (Raphael Alejandro). The plot isn’t original at all (and prepare yourself for the inevitable “how to be a ladies’ man” montage), but what makes the movie work is the believability of the human relationships (there’s a natural chemistry between Hayek, Alejandro and Derbez that is just plain delightful).
Rob Lowe has an innate sense of comedic timing (see the television series “Californication” and the movie “Tommy Boy”) and is hilarious throughout as friendly rival boy toy Rick, Kristen Bell delights as a cat crazy manager of a frozen yogurt shop, and funnymen Rob Huebel and Rob Riggle muster some chuckles as a pair of idiots who repeatedly fail at collecting a $1,000 debt. Nothing ever reaches true comedy gold, but there are lots of giggles that can be found in the most unexpected places.
The comedy is restrained by its PG-13 rating, with only a handful of mildly naughty double entendres (the most coming from Linda Lavin — you’ll probably remember her as playing TV’s “Alice” — as an object of affection whose kinky lustings are even larger than her substantially deep pockets). Its family-friendly rating reflects its family-friendly message.
The movie’s sweet tone reminds me of a Happy Madison movie but funnier, and thankfully without Adam Sandler. By the end of the story, Maximo finds redemption in the form of hard work and finally understanding the importance of having a loving family. It’s a male gigolo movie that’ll make you say “awww.”
By no means will this become a cult comedy classic, but it’s an amusing diversion that’s much better than it should be.