Photo courtesy of IMDb
By Luke Gair
Although I typically go to the Sewanee Union Theatre’s weekend showings of the latest films, I decided to watch the Cinema Guild’s presentation of Instructions Not Included. Nonetheless, I found it difficult to view Eugenio Derbez’s 2013 film as a blend of both comedy and drama.
Depicted as an irresponsible womanizer, Valentin lives in Acapulco and seems to sleep with women for a living. At the beginning of the film, a montage of Derbez’s character going to bed with several women soon segways into a former lover leaving him her child. Stranded with a baby he fails to know the name of, he decides to gather his things up and head the United States to find the mother of the child.
However, the only information available on this mysterious woman is a Polaroid picture. On his way to the California, there are several instances in which Derbez tries to bring in comedic scenes that fall flat, with all the humor reminiscent of Adam Sandler’s unimpressive, raunchy sense of comedy.
After trying to track down the baby’s mother, who we soon learn is named Julie, Valentin finds himself at the Beverly Hills Resort. While trying to find information on Julie, he somehow manages to fall from ten stories and land in the pool to save the baby, who he has carried alongside him during his trip to the United States.
Apparently, this big jump impresses a big-name movie director who ever-so-conveniently watches the entire fiasco. Through this, he lands a job as a stunt double. Unfortunately, this is only one ludicrous instance of many that occur throughout the film.
After securing his sudden new job, we watch the little girl, Maggie, grow up through use of montage. From these scenes, it becomes evident that although he was hesitant at first, Valentin loves the child he has brought up. Yet, I thought the montage seemed slightly forced and rushed; as they easily could have presented her growing up through dialogue. This represented simply one of many instances in which Derbez decided to show instead of tell, which would save both the viewer’s time and annoyance.
At this point, the film loses its acclaimed sense of “comedy” when Maggie’s mother returns out of nowhere. Now that life with his daughter is jeopardized, the film begins to focus more on Maggie’s and Valentin’s father-daughter relationship rather than their development. I thought this dramatic crisis seemed both slightly forced and poorly introduced. After six years, it seems rather sudden that the mother would randomly turn up and demand full custody of the child.
The meat of the film focuses on Valentin’s custody battle for his child. Yet at the end, we are given an unexplained conclusion to his grief. The several underlying conflicts may have been “resolved,” but I do not think they were done practically. Finally, although I desperately wish to disclose the ever-so-exciting ending to Instructions Not Included, you will just have to see it yourself.