The premise of this movie is simple: Maximo, a boy-toy married to a much older woman, is thrown out of her Bel Air mansion 25 years later, replaced by a new, younger guy. He shows up at the Los Angeles apartment of his widowed sister and her bespectacled son, seeking shelter as he searches for his next sugar mommy.
It’s a fun reversal of the old theme of rich old guys with pretty young women, and it also draws in actors Rob Lowe and Michael Cera playing swains to wealthy dowagers.
“How to Be a Latin Lover” is mostly a silly movie with some light family drama. Maximo tries to teach his young nephew how to be a man, with mixed success but a good heart. Maximo’s down-to-earth sister, played by Salma Hayek, finds him a challenge and says so, often and in Spanish, the subtitled language in which they battle. Over time, the three learn to trust each other a little more and to help each other. This is a good family theme.
Still, the yuks, many of them repeated more than once, are the thing here.
A popular Mexican actor, Eusenio Erbez, is the Latin Lover of the title. His easy manner and physical humor are fun to watch, which is a plus because the script requires him to endure frequent jokes at his character’s expense. He’s also a pretty good dancer.
Several years ago Erbez wrote, directed and starred in a $5 million movie, “Instructions Not Included,” that earned $100 million worldwide.
That success, and the participation of many recognizable American actors in Latin Lover, suggest that movie people believe Erbez is ready for a broader audience.
This seems like good bet. According to a 2012 census report, 38.5 million U.S. residents speak Spanish in their homes. Many of these, or their parents or grandparents, come from Mexico and retain an interest in Mexican culture.
A pro soccer executive told me last year that matches featuring Mexican teams invariably sell out in his region. Why wouldn’t the same be true for a movie whose main character is played by a Mexican movie star?