Artisan // 2003 // 95 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge Brian Burke (Retired) // November 28th, 2003
Ex-wife: Did you get me anything?
Donald: Gosh...you know, you're not on my list this year.
Ex-wife: You hate me, don't you?
Donald: No, Barbie, I don't hate you. You're not on my hate list, nor are you on my Christmas card list. You are listless with me.
Originally titled Mi Casa, Su Casa, Loco Love is the 2003 debut feature for director Bryan Lewis. Onscreen, you'll recognize three familiar faces in this predictable story of role reversal between a bigoted, white restaurant owner and his poor Mexican-American gardener: Gerardo (Mejía), the Ecuadorian rap singer who had a 1991 hit with Rico Suave, plays the role of the gardener; Barbara Eden, famous for her mid-1960s television series, I Dream of Jeannie, is a rich-bitch mother-in-law; and Laura Elena Harring, who played Rita in David Lynch's masterful Mulholland Dr. (2002), plays the gardener's sister.
I would suggest that none of the parties involved list this film too prominently on a résumé.
By marrying into a wealthy family, Donald Chandler (Roy Werner) now lives in a large house and has realized his dream of owning a restaurant. His biggest problems in life are the dying tree in his back yard and his Hispanic gardeners, whom he refers to as the Mexican Moron Brothers. He threatens to fire the brothers if his tree dies. But his life unravels when wife Barbie (Margaret Scarborough) tells him she's pregnant by another man. His wealthy mother-in-law (Barbara Eden) forces him to annul the marriage and sell the restaurant. Meanwhile, one of the gardeners, Miguel Sanchez (Gerardo Mejía) is celebrating his birthday with family. An aunt with magical powers (Chi Chi Navarro) presents him with a lottery ticket, and when the winning numbers are read seconds later, Miguel is suddenly worth $62 million. Now if only he can find someone to marry his beautiful but temperamental sister, Catalina (Laura Elena Harring), so she can emigrate from Mexico...
When Miguel and his brother-in-law Tobias (Frank Gallegos) go to Donald's house the next day to quit their job, they find Donald lying drunk under the dying tree, where he has failed in a suicide attempt. Miguel takes pity on Donald, and offers him a proposition: if Donald will marry Catalina, Miguel will give him the money to open a new restaurant. Donald agrees, but nearly changes his mind when Miguel and his whole family unexpectedly move into his home later that night. Donald and Catalina are already fighting even before the wedding ceremony has finished, but their differences soon melt away. When Miguel sees that they might be falling in love, he reminds Donald that the marriage is only a business arrangement, and threatens to take the restaurant away. The jealous Barbie offers money in an attempt to win Donald back. Who will it be: Catalina or Barbie?
I am sad to report that there is neither one believable character nor a single funny line in this Mexican-American answer to My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The acting is weak, the direction incompetent, and the script is dreadful. With this kind of triple-threat, it is hard to know where to assign the blame. Personally, I lay it at the feet of director Bryan Lewis, who is never able to find the proper tone. The film alternates between tame farce, bickering romantic comedy, and a heartwarming family picture, but never commits itself. What few jokes were present in the script land with a thud, and the actors register more embarrassment than laughter.
Roy Werner is a sort of poor man's Kevin Kline or Greg Kinnear. His performance can best be described as clueless. Laura Elena Harring looks lovely, but her wooden acting here makes you appreciate how great a director David Lynch must be. Gerardo Mejía sports the worst-looking moustache since Hitler for the first half of the film, but when it's shaved off by a black, effeminate, male hairdresser (gee, I've never seen that cliché before) his character loses interest. In fairness to the actors, they're given very little to work with here.
In an audio commentary that somehow manages to be duller than the movie itself, director Lewis and co-producer Charlie Bravo recall the production in every excruciating detail. Each actor is described as either "very talented" or "beautiful" or "very professional" or "phenomenal." For the record, Lewis and Bravo sound like earnest, hardworking, nice guys. I'm sure they didn't set out to make a lousy film but, hey, it happens. At one point, Lewis admits, "In this scene we were a little undecisive [sic] on which way we wanted to go with it, if we wanted to play up the comedy, or play up the romantic angle -- or lack of romantic angle." Unfortunately, that statement could be the epitaph for the production.
The film looks better than it has any right to. Lewis talks at length about using Panavision's high-definition digital camera (which was first used by George Lucas for Star Wars Episode II: Attack Of The Clones). The resulting DVD transfer achieves great definition and color saturation, with minimal edge enhancement. Unfortunately, Artisan has only released the film in a full-frame, pan-and-scan version. Of the two sound mixes, the Dolby 2.0 actually sounds fuller than the 5.1 mix, which rarely strays from the center channel. Aside from the commentary, there are a few other extras: three deleted scenes, the original theatrical trailer, and a brief behind-the-scenes montage set to music. Menus are static, there are 18 chapter stops (listed on a one-page insert), and Spanish subtitles are optional.
Poor Laura Elena Harring has apparently fallen on hard times. Two years after starring opposite Naomi Watts in a high profile, Oscar-nominated film, she has parlayed her fame and fortune into the co-starring role in this turkey. While there may be a market for good crossover movies that appeal to both English- and Spanish-speaking audiences, Loco Love fails to deliver under any title.
A movie you'd be loco to love, this film is found guilty as charged. You've been warned. We're adjourned.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2003
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
* Audio Commentary by Producer/Director Bryan Lewis and Producer/Music Supervisor Charlie Bravo
* Deleted Scenes (2:30)
* Behind the Scenes (3:30)
* Original Theatrical Trailer (1:50)