Chiquita Banana and the Frito Bandito were subtle compared to the caricatures of Latino culture in this movie, but because it was created by Latinos, it is supposed to be all right.
The story is basically a salsa-flavored but otherwise very traditional door-slamming/ mix-up of identical bags farce about a man (Mexican television star Eduardo Verastegui) who has successfully kept the three women he is dating from finding out about each other until they all decide to surprise him at the same time.
The women are Cici (Colombian actress Sofia Vergara), who seems to be channeling Charo as a big-hair, tush-shaking spitfire; Lorena (Puerto Rican actress Roselyn Sanchez), a serious, poetry-loving “take off your glasses and let down your hair and presto–you’re a beauty contestant” lawyer; and Patricia (Texan singer Jaci Velasquez), a pampered debutante with her daddy’s credit cards and a cute little dog. When they find out he has been seeing all of them, they are angry with each other, not him. As they have to work together to keep him hidden until he wakes up from a tranquilizer-induced stupor, they discover that they are getting more from themselves and each other than they ever got from him.
The movie has signifiers of Hispanic culture (everyone stops every day to watch superstar astrologer Walter Mercado on television) but it stays very generic because it wants to avoid splintering its audience by identifying its characters as being from any particular culture. The result is as shallow as a sit-com, without any of the real ethnic flavor of movies like “Mi Familia” or “What’s Cooking.” And it wastes the talents of its attractive performers by forcing them to try to disguise outlandish plot hoops that make no sense with over-the-top mugging and yelling.
Parents should know that the movie concerns an unfaithful lover. A character mixes pills and liquor (and when he passes out, no one takes it seriously). Characters drink to excess to deal with troubles and find it a bonding experience. Characters lie and steal with no concern for the consequences. While it is nice to see Hispanic characters who are not servants, sidekicks, or drug dealers, the portrayals are stereotypes, and the movie includes some stereotypes of women as well.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Papi had a hard time making up his mind and why the women blamed each other instead of him.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy “Mi Familia,” “Tortilla Soup,” and “Selena.” Mature family members will enjoy “Like Water for Chocolate.”