Luis Guzman, for decades one of the funniest character actors in the movies (“Waiting…” “Yes Man”) hilariously steps into the spotlight in a comedy whose title is as deep as it ever gets — “Puerto Ricans in Paris.”
It’s a cop buddy picture that suffers from a serious imbalance in the partnership. But Guzman lands laugh after laugh as a Boricua out of water in the City of Light.
There are giggles and grins in the opening, when Guzman, as an NYC fraud detective, poses as a Born Again Texas tourist (Miriam Shor scores as his “wife”/boss) who wants to buy Louis Vuitton handbags from a Times Square counterfeiter.
The scene’s a cliche — rube tourists, an Indian hustler (Ravi Patel, a hoot), “New York Rolexes, “New York Vuittons,” etc. — but it zings.
Then Luis’s partner, played by Edgar Garcia (TV’s “How to Make it In America”) lumbers in. From here on out, the movie teeters between funny and dull, between working and not-quite, between Guzman and Garcia.
A French fashion team (Alice Taglioni, Frédéric Anscombre) commission these real New York cops to solve the case of a stolen designer bag, which has been ransomed by counterfeiters who threaten to flood the market with fakes before Colette (Taglioni) can release her latest creation.
There’s a big reward involved. The catch? The two Puerto Rican NYC cops have to go to Paris.
Luis, from the moment he sets foot in France, lights it up. Literally. He hits up a generic Frenchman, “Heeeyyy, man” for a smoke.
“It’s Paris, baby. The cigarettes are HEALTHEIR. Google that s–t!”
Luis is on the case and on the make — hitting on every skinny mademoiselle he meets, swaggering into meetings with suspects posing as a Saudi prince or Colombian drug lord. The jokes are entirely too on-the-nose, but no matter. Guzman finds the laughs in even the most weary scenes in the Ian Edelman/Neel Shah script.
Garcia? Not so much. The character is supposed to be the straight man, the one Colette flirts with (because…he looks like Vin Diesel?). But even as a straight man, Garcia’s a stiff. His line-readings are the very definition of that phrase — “line reading.”
He’s such dead weight that you can’t help but ponder how much funnier this might have been by pairing say, Guzman with Rosie Perez or Rosario Dawson, who play the two NYC cops’ love interests with gusto. Heck, putting the tantrum-tossing Perez with the smoldering slow-burner Dawson in Paris would make a pretty funny movie, too.
You figure out the “mystery” long before the “Puerto Ricans in Paris” do. But Guzman makes even the most trite moment — hailing a taxi in oh-so-tolerant Paris — amusing.
“What? You don’t pick up Puerto Ricans here, either?”
MPAA Rating:R for language including some sexual references
Cast: Luis Guzman, Edgar Garcia, Rosie Perez, Alice Taglioni, Rosario Dawson
Credits: Directed by Ian Edelman, script by Ian Edelman, Neel Shah. A Focus World release.
Running time: 1:22