Luis Guzmán has been a reliably idiosyncratic supporting character for decades now. His stature is compact, plated, and unyielding like the broadside of a WW1 tank. His features ruggedly endearing. And his voice a drowsy rhythm of misunderstanding and confidence. From memorable movies such as ‘Boogie Nights’ to superfluous comedies such as ‘Waiting…’, the wonky deliveries and cannon fire laughter of Guzmán has mostly made every movie better. This year, the same cant be said. Late last month the actor appeared as a pantless pariah in Adam Sandler’s “The Do-Over”, a role that called for the 59-year-old actor to rock his genitalia, in the fashion of a grandfather clock, over a wincing David Spade. Here, with Ian Edelman’s ‘Puetro Ricans in Paris’, things, somehow, get even worse.
The synopsis is about as light and sweet as a Seculoos cookie: two no-nonsense, bravado bound police officers find themselves in the belly of Paris. In grandiose 90s fashion, the two badges – played here by Guzmán and Edgar Garcia – become wrapped up in a kaleidoscopic culture clash. Every joke begins and ends with “but we’re Puerto Ricans!” It’s a popgun exclamation that is used after characters drink coffee, eat croissants, and network at parties. I truly believe that the screenplay to this film is simply a cassette tape to ‘Rush Hour 2’ jammed inside of a manila envelope. Are the writers, Ian Edelman and Neel Shah, simply pseudonyms for Brett Ratner? You could argue that they innocuous lilt of ‘Puerto Ricans in Paris’ should be seen as a target-free buddy picture. Something that doesn’t deserve ire because of its carefree rumblings. But there is something deliberately violent about a picture whose sole purpose is to collect low-hanging fruit by knocking the whole tree down with a chainsaw. There are even “topical” gluten allergy jokes in this movie, so you know how culturally observant Edelman and Shah are.
As much as the plot concedes to being a crime-comedy, there’s no real villain here. The real nemesis in the film is its constant and overreaching attempts at physical and cultural humor. We’ve already had enough this year with ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2’, and now we’re supposed to sit, patiently, as characters in this movie start wearing berets. Even though it’s marginally hilarious to see Guzmán unintentionally dressed up to look exactly like Bautista from ‘Dexter’, there’s no real reason to see this movie. The comedy is amiss. The drama absent. And the action is relegated to two short sequences where nothing of consequence truly transpires. ‘Puerto Ricans in Paris’ relies on the inherent likability of Guzmán to sell its wares, but something like familiarity will never be as good as a well-written script. You can skip this one without care, as the director pretty much did the same.