Eugenio Derbez (Jack & Jill, Girl in Progress) has created his masterpiece… his magnum opus if you will. Although, Eugenio hasn’t done very many notable titles, Instructions Not Included (Lionsgate) puts him on the map in a serious way. I say that he created this film and what I mean is that he directed, acted and was a contributing writer. It really shows, too, in the cohesiveness of the vision that was executed on screen. This film literally has everything you would want from a picture of this nature. There were moments where I laughed, cried, and was literally sitting on the edge of my seat. I cannot say that for most of the films I have seen in a long time, really, this cannot be stressed enough. Everything from the acting to the pacing of this film fits impeccably with each other.
Immediately the tone is set with cute intro credits likened to animated construction paper. None of these concepts are anything new, however the execution is adorably unique. The relationship conjured, by the beginning sequences, between Valentin and Maggie is one almost as strong as UP, except without the tragedy. However, a little heavy on the montage, it’s passable because he makes it a theme.
Eugenio plays an immature “Cassanova” of a womanizer named Valentin Bravo who gets his life turned completely around by the surprise of having a child left at his doorstep. He does his best to find where the mother ran off to but eventually concedes to raising her himself. In doing so he must find a stable job and change every habit he’s ever known, but he is able to do so for he cares much for the child. Even though he has faced many obstacles the biggest issues come to pass when, his daughter, Maggie’s birth mother, Julie (Jessica Lindsey), re-inserts herself into their lives. Eugenio truly struck gold with Maggie, played by Loretto Peralta, who is a delight to observe. She brings a naturality to the screen that only the most comfortable can. Jessica Lindsey plays her character so spot on you’ll be torn between like and hate.
This film is something to watch with the family or with a significant other. It is both heartwarmingly funny and heartwrenchingly somber. Even though this film is mostly in Spanish the subtitles aren’t a chore at all to read, and the dialogue works perfectly switching to English and then back. Cuddle up under a blanket bring some popcorn and get ready for one of the most well paced films to come out in a very long time.