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Chasing Papi (PG)
20th Century Fox
Official Site
Director: Linda Mendoza
Producers: Forest Whitaker, Tracey Trench, Laura Angélica Simón
Written by: Laura Angélica Simón & Steven Antin and Alison Balian & Elizabeth Sarnoff
Cast: Roselyn Sanchez (Lorena), Sofia Vergara (Patricia), Jaci Velasquez (Cici), Eduardo Verastegui (Tomas), Lisa Vidal, D.L. Hughley, Joy Enriquez, Carlos Ponce, Freddy Rodriguez.

Rating: out of 5

Jennifer Lopez, your days may be numbered. If Chasing Papi, this film from first-time feature director Linda Mendoza is any indication of things yet to come, Lopez could find herself knocked off the throne by a whole host of Latina actresses, and if there’s one thing this film has, it’s a whole lot of sexy Latina babes. But that’s about all it’s got. Chasing Papi mostly reflects how Hollywood has finally gotten savvy about the changing demographics of the United States. The Hispanic population has been growing exponentially since the 1980s, and slowly we’re starting to see films that cater to the fastest growing minority group in America. This film features Latino actors and actresses in all the lead roles and while producers are surely hoping for a film with wide crossover appeal (and greater profit), this is a film designed mostly to charm Hispanic audiences.

Save for what will eventually become a fairly typical marketing strategy, this is just another unmemorable Hollywood comedy in sheepskin clothing. Diversity is all well and good, but a film needs to do much more than target a demographic. And in this case, the actors and actresses are not portraying denigrating ethnic stereotypes; they’re simply ethnic actors portraying stereotypical characters.

Patricia (Vergara) is the spoiled rotten rich girl. Lorena (Sanchez) is the bookish nerd-type who wears glasses and pulls her hair back into a tight bun. And Cici (Velasquez)is the hottie with big tits, short skirts, and high heels. The object of their affection is Tomas (Verastegui). He gets a little something from each of these women. From Patricia he finds culture, from power attorney Lorena he finds brains, and with Cici the lusty cocktail waitress he gets sensuality. What they get from him is the discovery he’s a three-timing greedy bastard. This revelation occurs after they spontaneously show up at his plush L.A. home and find each other instead of their paramour.

With three angry women standing in his hallway, Tomas frantically pops tranquilizers to calm down and ends up passing out cold. The women spirit him away to a hotel to await their Prince Charming’s awakening with the hope that once he regains consciousness he will pick the one he desires the most.

It’s all very insipid stuff and gets worse when the subplot concerning bad guys and a big bag of money is introduced. After demanding a wad of cash the women unknowingly possess, hare-brained hijinks naturally ensue. After all this wackiness subsides, the bookworm discovers she can be sensual. The spoiled rich kid becomes less prissy and the hottie… well, she’s still totally hot.

It’s a silly film, but it does have its moments. Near the end of their escapade, the women end up at a local festival with the thugs in hot pursuit. With no place else to run, the women commandeer the stage where musicians are entertaining the crowd. At Cici’s behest Lorena and Patricia hesitantly begin to dance in front of the samba performers. But their reluctance gradually gives way to wild gyrations and they manage to win over puzzled musicians and audience members alike. It’s an old plot device. It worked for the Blues Brothers, and it works here too. Unfortunately this one redeeming moment isn’t enough to save an entire film, and for the most part you’ll be better off waiting and hoping for Hollywood to one day soon take this burgeoning market a little more seriously.

—Nancy Semin

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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