Maria Laura, the heroine of our story, is thin, slinky bombshell of an actress who uses her talents to flirt with other women’s beaus to test their loyalty. The acting roles aren’t there, but there is no shortage of women who need a professional breaker-upper.
Men are putty in her hands. If there’s a hint of yard dog in them, she tempts it out.
She has a plain Jane roommate, Kika, a goofball acting pal and this one client, Pamela, who produces a TV show and promises Maria Laura a career-making role, if she can tempt her ex away from his new model-skinny girlfriend. But the ex is rich, handsome, charming and righteous, so Maria Laura is caught on the horns of a dilemma. Will her “ethics” allow her to follow her heart?
Or should I say, “Corazon”? “A la Mala” is a Mexican romantic comedy in the “How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days/Failure to Launch/40 Days and 40 Nights” mold. Change the language to English, switch the starlet to Olivia Wilde, or this year’s Olivia Wilde, and you’ve got a rom-com as shiny, shallow and cliched as anything Hollywood has turned out over the past dozen years.
The ex, a tequila mogul played by Mauricio Ochmann, even has a gay best friend — OK, gay assistant with his best interest at heart.
The upper class settings, swank apartment, Maseratis and Rachmaninoff concerts, give the film the sheen of “the Other Mexico.” And the camera just loves Aislinn Derbez, who starred in the Acapulco edition of “Gossip Girl.” The role demands little of her, but she gives this disguise-loving clothes horse an awkward, needy charm.
The problem is that her friends have shortened Maria Laura’s name to “Mala,” as in “cruel.” And Derbez suggests nothing of the sort. Mala has no cruelty about her and precious little guile.
It’s no more surprising when she starts to fall for Santiago patas arriba (head over heels) than when her friends tell her that she’s gone patas arriba over him.
Daniela Schmidt gives Pamela a jealous, manipulative edge. And Papile Aurora, as the Spanglish speaking roommate, has a funny, Spanish-as-a-second-language scene or two. Derbez gets by on stumbling charm for much of the film as Mala juggles, reacts to clever schemes that go awry and tries to avoid closing the deal with Santiago and crossing several ethical lines as she does.
“A la Mala” begins with promise and finishes well enough to justify the investment in time. It’s all that dull, formulaic stuff mediados película (mid movie) that sucks the salt right off the tequila glass and leaves this one too stale to swallow.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexuality/nudity and language.
Cast: Aislinn Derbez, Mauricio Ochmann, Papile Aurora, Daniela Schmidt, Luis Arrieta
Credits: Directed by Pedro Pablo Ibarra, written by. A Lionsgate/Pantelion release.
Running time: 1:45