Review

Chasing Papi Review

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Apr 16, 2003 | 5:56am EDT

A Latin lover (played by yummy Eduardo Verastequi) can't seem to keep track of all the girls he's dating. There's Cici (Sofia Vergara) a flamboyant dancer from Miami who makes a passionate partner in more ways than one; there's Lorena (Roselyn Sanchez) an intellectual do-gooder lawyer from Chicago who appeals to his mind; and then there's Patricia (Jaci Velasquez) a whiney princess from New York whose poor-little-rich-girl act inspires Papi's rebellious side. As expected the women eventually find out about one another via a contrived plot device that doesn't bear mentioning except to say that it leaves Papi in a tranquilizer-induced sleep that lasts for much of the film. In his waking moments he claims to be in love with each girl for a different reason an explanation with dubious implications: Does it take all three types to make one man happy? The women require no explanation at all; they're satisfied by their understanding that he three-timed them because "he's a man"--enough said--so the trio are content to bide their time until he can wake up and pick one of them to be his true love. While they're waiting they mistake a sexy FBI agent (Carmen Rivera) for another of Papi's conquests--not a difficult mistake to make since she wears hot leather pants sports large fluffy hair and oozes a tough sensuality that--needless to say--Papi finds extremely appealing when he finally meets her. (Remember: He's a man; he can't help himself.). Liking the odds better with just the three of them the women flee taking the comatose Papi on a wild ride through the streets of L.A. and inadvertently become involved in a shady counterfeit ring.

Chasing Papi's opening credits which feature cartoon versions of the main characters offer a cute but telling commentary on the movie itself since the live versions of the characters are so cartoonish. Vergara's Cici is the most clearly drawn which makes her the most interesting to watch--and also the most troubling. With her hot pink plastic jacket precariously high heels and vigorously rolled Rs she's in touch with the movie's ideal of achieving both inner and outer "Latina"ness. She's essentially playing Charro and as such first-time director Linda Mendoza focuses the camera mainly on her long legs gorgeous blonde hair and abundant cleavage while the story hones in on her "spicy Latin temper." Sanchez's button-down Lorena on the other hand is hiding her "true Latina essence" behind spectacles and a suit and tie and she only discovers her natural beauty when she stands in for "Miss Puerto Rico" in the Miss Latina America beauty contest. From this subterfuge women viewers learn a very valuable lesson: there's nothing like a low-cut blouse to make people listen to what you have to say. Velasquez's Patricia makes her transformation more simply. Since she goes to a lot of trouble to look "white" (she even wears blue contact lenses and carries a little lap dog with her everywhere in a Louis Vuitton bag) all she has to do is shed these accouterments and move out of her daddy's mansion. Voila! Instant ethnicity.

Chasing Papi tries and fails to make an entertaining story out of several much overused jokes and a series of contrivances. A counterfeit ring that will play a key role is conveniently mentioned each and every time a TV or radio is turned on. The hotel where the girls try to stay in L.A. is conveniently playing host to the Miss Latina America pageant. The coordinator of said pageant conveniently mistakes Lorena for Miss Puerto Rico earning the girls a free suite--convenient again since Patricia's mummy has cut off her platinum card. The girls' speeches at the end of the film solidify the nagging sense that the whole movie has been an elaborately contrived exodus designed to get us to these trite little sound bites about the value of going it alone without a man. But by the time we get there we already know that what this film's missing is even more elemental than detailed characters and a believable storyline--it lacks relevance. Despite its positive final message that you don't need a man to be happy the movie makes the clichéd assumption throughout that the modern Latin woman--even a spunky passionate dancer or a rich New York socialite or an intellectual attorney--will need to be convinced of this fact. Reality check: she probably won't and if she wants to explore womanhood in her culture we'd recommend renting last year's insightful Real Women Have Curves instead of shelling out eight bucks for this pap.

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