Do I really need to say at this point that American movies have failed Latino audiences? Well, yes, actually. After all, what may be painfully obvious to you and me is not obvious at all to a great many other people, especially the ones who decide which movies get made. Low-budget filmmakers have been trying to fill the gaping void with this underserved audience, and while there have been some shining successes both funny (Ladrón que roba a ladrón) and serious (A Better Life), their efforts largely haven’t been good enough. This applies to Puerto Ricans in Paris, a comedy that comes out in theaters this week and represents yet another blown opportunity.
Luis Guzmán and Edgar Garcia portray Luis and Eddie, two NYPD detectives and brothers-in-law who specialize in bringing down counterfeiters of designer goods. Their expertise is the reason why a high-end Parisian fashion designer (Alice Taglioni) hands them a working vacation: The prototype of her new handbag for next season has been stolen and is being held for ransom, so she offers Luis and Eddie a $150,000 reward if they can recover the bag in time.
While Luis acts like the classic ugly American once he’s in France, Eddie proves himself the far better tourist, biking around the city to take in the sights, picking up some key French phrases, and raving about the pistachio macarons at the corner patisserie. The trouble is, these guys aren’t culturally specific. If you’re going to title your movie Puerto Ricans in Paris, the least the audience can expect is that the main characters will react to the City of Lights in a way that two Boricuas from the Lower East Side plausibly might. However, neither writer-director Ian Edelman nor co-writer Neel Shah are of Latino descent, so they render Luis and Eddie as generically fish-out-of-water cops like the heroes of the similar Rush Hour 3. The bits where the detectives go undercover as Saudi princes or cocaine traffickers provide some mild flavor, but they’re not enough.
The whole bagnapping plot is handled unimaginatively, with the main suspects all being boring. Strangely, nobody thinks to have the fashion house agree to pay the ransom and then have the cops bust the thief when he or she picks up the cash. Taglioni, who looks about seven feet tall next to the movie’s stars, manages to be likably down-to-earth, but why in the world do the filmmakers go to the trouble of casting Rosario Dawson and Rosie Perez as the detectives’ significant others and then leave them in the States away from all the hijinks? It’s a sign of desperation when the movie resorts to dressing Luis and Eddie in ill-fitting haute-couture-meets-hip-hop fashions to get some laughs. Sending our Latino talent overseas isn’t a bad idea, but they need to carry better material with them.
[box_info]Puerto Ricans in Paris
Starring Luis Guzmán and Edgar Garcia. Directed by Ian Edelman. Written by Neel Shah and Ian Edelman. Rated R.[/box_info]