Mexican TV star Eugenio Derbez breaks into feature filmmaking in "Instructions Not Included," a sweet, funny and poignant comedy that he directs, co-writes and co-produces. Derbez also stars as Valentín, an Acapulco playboy whose bachelor lifestyle screeches to a halt when one of his tourist lovers shows up on his doorstep with a baby — his baby.
The movie's Spanish title translates as "No Returns Accepted," a much more appropriate description of this story about a daughter no one wants — the mother, Julie (Jessica Lindsey), flees, and Valentín follows her to the United States to attempt to return the kid. Six years later, when Valentín has established a lucrative career as a stuntman, and baby Maggie (the perfectly bilingual Loreto Peralta) has grown into a blue-eyed, blond-haired bundle of delight, Julie tracks him down, ready to be a part of her daughter's life.
Aimed squarely at a Latino audience — there's at least one joke centered on a Mexican song that English-only speakers may not get, despite subtitles — "Instructions Not Included" nonetheless speaks to universal themes about love, fear, parenthood and death in the context of a quintessential L.A. story in which immigration is touched on, if not significantly engaged.
The performances are stylishly cartoonish, and an aggressive score pushes the script toward melodrama, but there's a lot of movie here with unexpected developments, held together by the irresistible chemistry between Derbez and his adorable pint-sized co-star.
"Instructions Not Included."
MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content, thematic elements and language.
Running time: 1 hour, 55 minutes.
Playing: In wide release.