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Facile and fluffy buddy-cop comedy about a missing handbag with an ethnic topcoat and a Parisian backdrop. Not a good film, but a sincere one.
I would like to stress at the outset that Puerto Ricans in Paris is not a good movie. If you take only one thing from this review, it must be this. I'm going to say some things in the paragraphs that follow -- I may even say I enjoyed it -- but let there be no uncertainty. Movie. Not good. Okay.
So here's the rub. There's a certain primal pleasure in watching a film like Puerto Ricans in Paris, an unabashed B-movie buddy comedy that knows what it wants to be, aspires to nothing more, and delivers just about what you'd expect. Granted, it's abysmally weak by ordinary standards, but let's be realistic -- you won't wander into this one expecting Fellini. From those to whom little is given, little is required. Or something.
The title pretty much sums up the premise, but here goes: Luis Guzman and Edgar Garcia play two NYPD detectives working the counterfeit luxury goods beat. When a Parisian arrives with a special request -- help a famous designer (Alice Taglioni) find a missing prototype handbag worth millions -- the pair jets off to Paris (macarons, bro?) and vapid screwball comedy ensues.
I enjoyed the early promise of the counterfeit luxury goods angle, since I recently read Deluxe: How Luxury Lost its Luster -- and a surprising number of details in this film actually ring true: like a corporate heavy ousting a designer to profit from her name, and the faithful portrayal of Canal Street merchants and their backroom dens. That said, I haven't the faintest idea why this luxury-goods storyline was paired with overt Puerto Rican ethnic humor -- it's as though two separate spec scripts were shuffled together and promptly green-lit. Not that it matters much, since the luxury angle fades into the background right quick.
The Parisian storyline is simplistic and frankly not too important, a basic whodunnit in which even the filmmakers regularly lose interest. Guzman and Garcia go through the motions of screening various suspects (often donning ethnic disguises, because easy laughs) and in the meantime chastise one another, have heart-to-hearts about the meaning of family, and so on. Characters come and go; some story lines are left unfinished.
The protagonists are simplistic and one-dimensional, but likable nonetheless. Guzman is the ladies' man of the pair, a perpetual bachelor and womanizer -- a role that's frankly hard to take very seriously given that he's not exactly George Clooney yet he's slinging more game than a Spiderman reboot on some very young, very attractive French women. (To be fair, he has limited success -- his shlubby appearance paired with aspirational macking could've been a punchline here, but I don't think it was.) Garcia by contrast is married with kids, and we taste his workaday struggles when his wife (Rosie Perez) laments yet another unobserved anniversary. In Paris, Garcia's loyalties are tested when the beautiful designer takes an interest in him -- but the film stops short of ever causing Garcia a real problem in this regard. (One senses that family and loyalty are particularly sacrosanct here -- we mine Garcia's plight for gentle laughs, but never place him anywhere near risk of actual infidelity.) Secondary characters are double-thick stereotypes. Yes, this is ground-floor, feel-good xenophobic comedy for Trump Nation.
This movie struggles to strike the right rhythm with its two-fish-out-of-water premise. And we're never really sure if Guzman and Garcia are bumbling or actually on their game. Director Ian Edelman also does his best to reinforce an American tourist's fantasy of Paris, all gleaming cobblestones and streetlamps and whimsical bicycles and fancy hotels and baguettes and Eiffels and romance. (The less that's said about this, the better.)
Production quality isn't great. Much of the film looks like it was shot on an iPhone 6 and with about the same budget. The end credits would have benefited from an undergrad intern, ten minutes, and a free trial of Final Cut Pro. Puerto Ricans in Paris is, however, mercifully short, clocking in at just over 1 hour 20 minutes.
But all that said, and perhaps in spite of myself, I still enjoyed this movie. Puerto Ricans in Paris is just wholly unpretentious. This is real, working-man authenticity in film form. I mean, look at the title. That's real honesty. And while I wouldn't send you to see it, I also won't blame you if you do.
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