Director Linda Mendoza's debut film, Chasing Papi, works like this: The movie's three gorgeous Latina leads are dating the same hunky guy, whom they affectionately call Papi (Eduardo Verástegui)--but you already know this from the movie trailer. The women are going to bump into one another at Papi's house in Los Angeles--but you already know this from the horoscope that gets read during the movie's first 15 minutes. For some reason, Papi is going to be unconscious for most of the movie--which you've already figured out from the extended shot of the scotch he just used to chase down a handful of tranquilizers. And finally, the women are going to end up fighting over him and eventually learning something about themselves in the process--which you know because, well, this is what passes for comedy these days.
As if this wasn't enough, there's another plotline running through the movie. To get to Los Angeles in the first place, one of the women, Cici (Sofía Vergara), offers to drive her friend's boyfriend's car from Miami to Hollywood, where it is to be delivered to two guys in a parking lot. Sure enough, the two guys turn out to be criminals of some unspecified sort who get angry when they can't find a bag of cash that was stashed in the car. The FBI gets thrown into the mix and, apparently, fun and laughs are supposed to ensue.
Don't hold your breath on that last part, though. This much-too-complex comedy carries only a few chuckles, mostly triggered by cameos from Paul Rodriguez and famed Latin astrologist Walter Mercado. The rest of the movie's 80 minutes simply deliver one eye roll after another that will leave you wondering why four different screenwriters couldn't produce one original thought.
Much of the problem lies in the way the movie uses pretty much every comedic trick ever put to film to get this story across. There's the split-screen call-waiting sequence while Papi is on the phone with all three women at once. There's the ol' bag-switcheroo that results in the thieves mistaking a bag of bras for their bag of cash. There are plenty of double-takes where Papi thinks he's seeing the women he's dating when really he's just looking at a bunch of colleagues. And there's even a join-the-show scene in which the women turn their clothes into skimpy outfits and jump onto stage as a group of dancers in order to avoid the bandits. I could go on, but I'll let you see the movie if you want the definitive list.
Not to be outdone, the characters are painfully stereotypical. While some amount of this is tolerable from a movie that attempts to make a Latin audience laugh by poking fun at Latin culture, most every role in Chasing Papi is typecast well beyond heritage. For instance, the barmaid (Vergara) is loud and sexy; the rich girl (Jaci Velasquez) is arrogant and whiny; and the lawyer (Roselyn Sanchez) is brainy and reserved. Of course, the lawyer turns into a sultry beauty queen simply by removing her glasses and flipping her hair up in slow motion; this must be what producer Forest Whitaker refers to on the movie's Web site as "empowerment."
In fact, the only interesting character in Chasing Papi is Lisa Vidal as an unfaltering FBI agent. But this too goes sour in the end as she gives in and accepts a dinner invitation from Papi who, although slightly dejected after having been dumped by his three lovers, is clearly still on the prowl. The overall effect is a letdown -- one that you should not subject yourself to unless you are researching all the wrong ways to make a movie.
The DVD adds a commentary track from most of the cast and crew. Oddly, there are two tracks -- one in English and one Spanish -- both of which seem to be... in Spanish.
I'm chasing Papi right now!