Maudlin and wholesome to a fault, “Tio Papi” is a family dramedy about a single guy who gives up his dream life when his sister dies and leaves him with six kids that he doesn’t know how to raise.
It stumbles out of the gate by not showing anything of a “dream” life that New Yorker Ray Ray Dominguez (Joey Dedio) is giving up. He lives alone and saves his cash, yet he’s behind on his rent. Way behind.
The film finds zero laughs in the worn out situation of a bachelor — Puerto Rican, in this case — who suddenly has to cope with kids. A strained romance with a teacher (Elizabeth Rodriguez) he split from because he didn’t want to be “tied down” with kids doesn’t work. The financial struggle of being responsible for six fresh mouths to feed is skimmed over.
And the third act is a litany of idiotically obvious plot devices straight out of bad ’70s sitcoms, from the “crisis” that could cost him the kids to the serendipitous arrival of out of the blue bonuses that tie the whole misshapen mess up in a bow.
“Tio Papi” — the title means “Uncle Daddy” — takes in the kids and is instantly overwhelmed. Two rebellious teens, two quarrelsome tweens and two primary school darlings who miss their parents are enough to test anyone. Are they sweet enough to soften his “get my life back” sentiment?
By the time the stern social worker (Kelly McGillis) gives him 30 days, Ray Ray is desperate enough to beg his ex, Cheeky (Rodriguez) for help. Will she change her mind about taking a job in Miami and dive into this chaos? Guess. The lack of surprises walks hand in hand with the absence of laughs.
The kids are forgettable and faintly amateurish and all the performers are, to a one, bland, given nothing funny to say or do. Dedio — the little seen indie drama “Downtown: A Street Tale” is his best-known credit — came up with the character but needed help making him funny, charming, selfish or interesting in even the most basic ways. This guy has no rough edges to him.
If it weren’t for the well-intentioned moments of pathos — a tear or two, hear and there — “Tio Papi” would be a complete waste of time. Sure, the kids miss their parents. But not that much. And yes, he’s giving up his dream, but even his dream is boring. This “Tio” makes you want to cry “uncle” long before the closing credits.
MPAA Rating: PG for thematic elements, mild rude humor and brief language
Cast: Joey Dedio, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Kelly McGillis, Frankie Faison
Credits: Directed by Fro Rojas, written by Joey Dedio and Brian Herskowitz. An Active Fox release.
Running time: 1:27