Friday, February 27, 2015

A la Mala

This weekend's solution to the Mad Lib of "Hollywood doesn't make romantic comedies any more but ________ does" is, apparently, "Mexico".

Like the last couple of Mexican movies to pop up at Boston Common, A la Mala is distributed by Lionsgate's Pantelion label, although unlike Instructions Not Included and Cantinflas, any attempt to be Mexican-American is pretty minimal - there are a few English-language songs on the soundtrack, and some English-language phrases slip into the dialogue, but pretty much the whole thing takes place in Mexico City and Spanish is everyone's primary language.

I wonder how much that will help/hurt it at the box office. The 8pm preview show on Thursday night was just me and one other guy, neither of us Latino (well, I can't speak for him, but it wouldn't be my guess), and not being a regular at night-before screenings, I've got no idea how common that is. I suspect that it might make the picture a little harder to sell to a crossover audience, which is too bad; it's funny and genuinely charming.

I'm a little bit surprised that this was the Mexican movie that opened in Boston this weekend; Ana Maria in Novela Land seemed to be getting more publicity online and has more folks a non-Latino audience might recognize (Elizabeth Pena, Luis Guzman, Sung Kang). Maybe if this does well that will show up next week. Seems weird that they'd both target the same weekend, though.

A la Mala

* * * (out of four)
Seen 26 February 2015 in AMC Boston Common #15 (first-run, DCP)

There are a lot of romantic comedies that start from from premises as ludicrous as that of A la Mala, but few of them do as well in selling that starting point. It's a goofy little thing, but it's got a cute couple at the center and makes enough nimble steps along the way to be a great deal of fun.

The idea is that actress Maria Laura "Mala" Medina (Aislinn Derbez) has a side gig - she'll flirt with a woman's boyfriend or otherwise provide enough temptation and distraction for men to determine whether they're worth keeping around. It looks like she can quit when she aces an audition for a new television series, but its producer (Daniela Schmidt) demands one last gig - seduce and then dump her ex-boyfriend Santiago (Mauricio Ochmann), both making him understand how she felt and giving her a chance to swoop in and win her back. The trouble is twofold - Mala and Santiago have already met, and she winds up liking the guy.

That's close to the whole deal, and that's fine. The filmmakers don't undermine their premise's simplicity with subplots that don't matter, nor do they feel a particular need to throw additional challenges in Mala's and Santiago's way (there's actually something kind of clever about how the unwanted ex is built right into the setup, but in a way that doesn't require her to be visible and gate on the audience). Instead, director Pedro Pablo Ibarra and writers Issa Lopez & Ari Rosen spend the bulk of the movie on the pair getting to know and like each other, letting their chemistry fuel the movie without jerking the audience back and forth.

Full review on EFC

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