His set-ups take forever, his transitions between stories are natural, but drag on forever. And this guy would probably be the first to admit that he’s about as far from comedy’s cutting edge as, oh, Jay Leno or Garrison Keillor.
But Iglesias makes it work, after a fashion. Because he’s a story teller, with a genial stage presence and a Hispanic American fanbase that has taken him from stand-up specials to a Kevin Hart-sized feature-film treatment.
Iglesias, who turned 38 this month, stars in a concert film that pays homage to Eddie Murphy’s “Raw,” an ’80s concert doc that, a cute acted-out prologue tells us, was little Gabriel’s inspiration for getting into comedy after he conned a video store clerk (Tommy Chong) into letting him rent it as a kid.
That prologue tells the story of his conception and birth — about-to-divorce Mom hooks up with mariachi singer Jesus, cigar chomping border country doctor (Ron White) delivers him, the works — a life begins in five minutes.
Then Iglesias takes the stage at a Bay area venue and enlightens us on the banalities of his life — his morbid obesity, his step-fatherhood, and his relationship with the estranged father he barely knows.
These are, he admits, “random stories,” and he draws them out, with mixed results. He kills the first 30 minutes of the show talking about his 100 lb. weight loss, his diabetes, the doctor who gave him two years to live and the visit to a gastric bypass clinic where he sought salvation. First, they had to weigh him, and they were ready — “We have an industrial grade scale,” the nurse tells him. Yes, if they’re using “industrial” in any way with a course of treatment, you’ve messed up, he jokes.
Iglesias, a cartoon voice superstar waiting to happen, is known for his funny voices, and he doesn’t disappoint his fans — mousy women, sullen teens (his step son), an English valet, black people, white people, Mexicans and, thanks to a visit to the Subcontinent, Indians.
That’s where his observation powers shine, picking up on Indian dialect, the affirmation-oriented personalities the culture encourages and a bit of head bobbing that seals the deal on India’s connection with Mexico. Spicy food, colorful accents, “Don’t drink the water,” and English is a helpful second language? It’s Mexico! East!
He imitates Indians, Apu-style, but in a nice way.
He makes fun of their manners, but in a nice way.
But the bulk of the film concerns his relationship with his ingrate of a stepson, and that’s pretty pedestrian stuff, to be honest.
The film doesn’t catch Iglesias when he was younger and hungrier, so to speak. This is like Kevin Hart’s second concert film, sort of a victory lap. His audience is with him, doing too much of the work (easy laughs) for him.
He’s lost a lot of weight, and not in the smartest way, and he preaches about it. He’s a step parent, and he preaches a bit about that, and about the dad he met only recently. He doesn’t touch on America’s Anglo-Spanish culture clash, switching to Spanish here and there for effect.
“Some of you got that. Gracias.”
His comedy, whatever it was at an earlier age, is comfort food now.
But he is never less than good company, and never out of touch with his audience — his peers, more an age group than an ethnic one at this stage. When he admits to buying pirated copies of video games for his kid, he’s at his most human.
“Yes, I have money. But I’m still ghetto.”
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for suggestive material and sexual references
Cast: Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias, Jacqueline Obradors, Tommy Chong, Ron White
Credits: Directed by Manny Rodriguez. An Open Road release.