Movie Review: Eugenio Derbez remakes a French farce…limply — “The Valet”

Mexican star Eugenio Derbez’s Hollywood films lean heavily on “sweet” and “sentimental,” which is some compensation, considering “Instructions Not Included” co-starred an adorable child, “How to be a Latin Lover” underwhelmed and “Overboard” was a dog.

They’re all slow, something that leaps back to mind as his remake of “The Valet” hits the hour mark and one wonders “Well, they’ve run out of entertainment value and this lump has another hour before the closing credits.”

Nevertheless, the script, an adaptation of a French comedy, works in some warm and almost biting commentaries on being Latino and working-poor in the City of Beautiful People, New Money and Extravagance — Los Angeles.

The set-up is that a 50something car valet tumbles into a beautiful starlet and her paramour, and they pay him to pretend to be her new beau to throw the paparazzi, and a jealous spouse, off the scent.

Derbez, sporting a haircut that doesn’t hide “60 not 50,” is paired-up with Samara Weaving (“Ready or Not”), and even having his character, Antonio, say “I’m old enough to be your father” and “Nobody will believe this” doesn’t let the picture’s miscast central premise off the hook.

But if there’s little chemistry, few funny lines and shockingly few attempts at slapstick, the idea here is to make these two very different people connect, relate and share the downsides of his life of struggle and her loveless lack of privacy.

I remember being lukewarm on the 2006 French film this is based on, so it’s not all on Derbez, Weaving, the director and screenwriters. The source material’s thin on laughs. But Derbez seems muzzled by the screenplay, and Weaving has few chances to hit the gonzo notes that made her “Ready or Not” and “Guns Akimbo” turns amusing.

Antonio rides a bicycle to work, lives in a motel that’s gone condo with his mom (Carmen Salinas) and teen son. His wife (Marisol Nichols) has left him, just the latest sign that the world has him under its heel.

Olivia Allan (Weaving) wears disguises, switches cars on her way home and lives under a microscope. Her face is on posters all over town, because her new movie “Earhart” is about to premiere.

The last thing she needs is a scandal — photographed by the paps, sneaking out of a swank hotel where she was canoodling with her married developer side-piece (Max Greenfield).

The “other” guy in those scandal sheet photos, the hapless valet, is their way out. Pay him off, show him off, maybe get him to shave that damned mustache off, and “change the subject” in a single news cycle.

“I’ve dated actors,” she tells the gossip press. “They’re too much work.”

So. A valet it is. Let the wild rumpus start.

The gold in this is in the details scattered around our ill-fated couple.

Antonio finds himself sneaking a drunken Olivia out of a premiere party, through the hotel’s kitchen, where his working class Latin compadres cheers “Viva MEXICO!” He and two valet pals
(Armando Hernández, Carlos Santos) pour her into a pickup and make their getaway.

But hey, let’s stop at the drive-through. She’s still out cold as they split the tab, counting out the ones they get in tips from parking the world’s most expensive cars at work.

The “cute” stuff about her meeting his family and neighbors has no laughs in it. That joke played.

But Antonio gets to tell the fair haired “white girl” how hard it is “being invisible” in a city where Latinos make up much of the work force, serving haughty folk who “never look us in the eye.” A running gag that’s more sad than funny — Antonio is constantly mistaken for a waiter, every where they go.

The comic stuff is kind of tired and bloodless — “What’s she see in him?” penis jokes, faked sex. But the sweet stuff, for the most part, plays. She shows up at his son’s school play — “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Two rival private eyes (Ravi Patel, John Pirruccello) show up as well and find themselves deconstructing the play during stakeouts.

Derbez remains a likable presence, and that’s the highest praise you can throw at “The Valet” in the feeble hope that it sticks. But even “likeable” wears out its welcome when the story hits the wall at the 60 minute mark, and there aren’t enough jokes to fill a single sitcom episode.

Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, some strong language and brief drug material

Cast: Eugenio Derbez, Samara Weaving, Max Greenfield, Betsy Brandt, Amaury Nolasco and Carmen Salinas.

Credits: Directed byRichard Wong, scripted by Bob Fisher and Rob Greenberg, based on the French film by Francis Veber. A Hulu Original, by Lionsgate

Running time: 2:04

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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