Film Review: ‘Instructions Not Included’

Instructions Not Included Review

This sporadically amusing but unduly protracted dramedy devolves into a shameless tearjerker in its third act.

Yet another iteration of a sentimental scenario that already was whiskery way back when Charlie Chaplin served as father figure for “The Kid,” “Instructions Not Included” is a sporadically amusing but unduly protracted dramedy that slowly — very slowly — devolves into a shameless tearjerker during its third act. Pic may prove popular with fans of Mexican TV actor/personality Eugenio Derbez, who directed and co-wrote it as a star-vehicle showcase. Even so, it’s questionable whether something so blandly formulaic will do much to expand that fan base.

It doesn’t help much that Derbez is less than entirely convincing in early scenes, playing his character, Valentin, as a roguish ladies’ man who compulsively loves ‘em and leaves ’em while cavorting in his native Acapulco. He’s a great deal more persuasive, here and elsewhere, as a borderline scaredy-cat who has never quite recovered from his father’s tough-love attempts to make him overcome even the most rational fears.

While dozing one morning alongside two scantily clad cuties, Valentin awakens to find an old flame, Julie (Jessica Lindsey), and her infant daughter outside his front door. She asks Valentin for cab fare, then turns over her baby for safekeeping while she rushes back downstairs to pay the driver. She doesn’t come back.

In short order, Valentin discovers that (a) he has been identified by Julie as the baby’s father, (b) she is returning to the U.S. to get on with her life, because she’s ill equipped for motherhood, and (c) he is unable to master such parenting fundamentals as bottle feeding and diaper changing. So he grabs the infant and hitches a ride to L.A., where he hopes to effect a mother-and-child reunion.

But his own paternal instincts take over when, once he spots the baby in danger of drowning in a hotel pool, he swallows his fears and jumps into the water from a window several floor above.

Fortunately, Valentin’s heroics are noted by Frank Ryan (Daniel Raymont), a less-than-reputable producer who hires Valentin as a stuntman — the job our hero continues to hold seven years later as the lengthy exposition ends, and the plot begins in earnest.

There is more than a hint of Jerry Lewis in Derbez’s portrayal of Valentin as an eccentric doting dad who seems scarcely more mature than Maggie (Loreto Peralta), his precocious young offspring. Father and daughter live in a toy-cluttered apartment that looks more like a playhouse than a family residence, and spend many of their off-hours lounging about in matching pajamas.

In many ways, Maggie is the more grown-up of the pair — she’s bilingual, while he never bothers to learn much English — but she’s easily fooled by Valentin’s fanciful tales about the noble causes and fantastical adventures that have kept her mother far away for years and years.

In this sort of story, of course, it’s only a matter of time before the errant mother really does reappear and, more important, begins a legal battle to regain custody of her child. What separates “Instructions Not Included” from predecessors like “Kramer vs. Kramer” is what might best be described as the pic’s sole contemporary touch: When Julie finally does show up — after overcoming what another character cryptically describes as “her addictions” — she is accompanied by a supportive significant other who happens to be a woman, Renee (Alessandra Rosaldo).

To their credit,  Derbez and co-scripters Guillermo Rios and Leticia Lopez Margalli don’t play this plot development for too many cheap laughs. To their discredit, however, they spend rather too much time depicting Julie and (especially) Renee as villains of the piece, mostly to motivate a late plot turnabout that is quite unnecessary and, worse, a weak motivation to add another 15 minutes or so to the running time.

Derbez and Peralta develop a sweetly effective chemistry in their scenes together, and the relationship between their characters is even more affecting after some beans are spilled in the final scenes, and you start to view what might have seemed like odd behavior in an entirely new light. Unfortunately, the supporting players are all too often encouraged to overplay, with decidedly mixed results.

Tech values are mostly passable. In scenes meant to show Valentin at work in Hollywood action fare, however, the budgetary limitations are distractingly obvious.

Film Review: 'Instructions Not Included'

Reviewed online, Houston, Aug. 29, 2013. MPAA Rating: PG-13. Running time: 115 MIN. Original title: "No seaceptan devoluciones"

Production

(Mexico) A Lionsgate (in U.S.) release and presentation with Pantelion Films of an Alebrije Cine and Video production in association with Fulano, Mengano and Asociados. Produced by Monica Lozano, Eugenio Derbez. Executive producer, Monica Lozano.

Crew

Directed by Eugenio Derbez. Screenplay, Guillermo Rios, Leticia Lopez Margalli, Derbez. Camera (color), Martin Boege, Andres Leon Becker; editors, Carlos Bolado, Santiago Perez Rocha; music, Carlo Siliotto; music supervisor, Herminio Gutierrez; production designer, Sandra Cabriada; art director, Jordan Crockett; costume designer, Gilda Navarro; sound, Martin Hernandez, Alejandro Quevedo; associate producers, Francisco Gonzalez Compean, Jose Sierra, Eduardo Cisneros Alexander Dahm, Eamon O’Farrill; assistant director, Stephanie Correa; casting, Sandra Leon Becker.

With

Eugenio Derbez, Jessica Lindsey, Loreto Peralta, Daniel Raymont, Alessandra Rosaldo, Hugo Stiglitz, Arcelia Ramirez. (Spanish, English dialogue)

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  1. Verrägert über diesen Zustand habe ich im Internet danach gesucht, wie Sex kostenlos haben kann.

  2. mary says:

    I agree with your revie w though to be his first movie I also think Derbez did better from what I would expect. He is a talent comic but I personnaly do not enjoy his tv shows in Mexico they are too silly for me. I preffer other Mexican comedians to him but he did a reasonable work here better than his usual comedies.

    Sadly he did not directed himself very well. He played his caracter at many times in a melodramatic way, and the movie itself at times was more a telenovela than a movie even the camera shots, close-ups, slow timing, and exagerated music and slow development of the plot were like in a telenovela.

    And though the chemistry between Derbez and the little girl was great and her acting was impressive the plot was too uneven and twisted too much, too heavy plot wise in the last half hour.

    Also the part of his child wastoo violent and graphic and the part of his gigoloo days to extense and sexually explicit and unnecesary, specially with the threesome inuendo and the neighbors “plumming” and her tone specially unnecesary. The shots with him talking with a few girls telling them they were the only ones were more then enough.A good editor and director would have seen this. Overall I enjoyed the movie and hope Derbez steps it up to the next level next time, I think he can do it.

  3. Karina says:

    You fall in love with the characters, just a honest and well thought out movie, so much respect very good unexpected plot twists. Entertained every second. 5 stars

  4. Karina says:

    I absolutly loved this movie from the begining to end. At the end when the plot twist happens I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t stop crying when after the film and when I got in the car I just started crying like a baby. My friends and me had a great time, there are jokes in every minute of the and I also went with my parents and it was just a really good movie. One of the best movies I’ve seen in a long-long time 5 Stars, all the way. I honestly recomend this movie.

  5. Sophia Gracia says:

    “*definitely” Oh yes, this movie did have it’s cheesy moments but can you imagine if it would have been produced by a big top producer, this movie would have been that much more over the top :)

  6. Sophia Gracia says:

    In response to your review to “Instructions Not Included,” I am happy to write; What an amazing movie! So amazing I am taking the time to express my thoughts. Any movie that can make me laugh while in tears is a rare find, a movie theater at max capacity after three weeks, and with an audience applauding at the end of the movie is a great movie in my books. This movie connected with the not “in the know” north of the boarder non Spanish speaking peeps and diffitanly with the “in the know peeps.” Eugenio Derbez deserves an award for this movie. I highly recommend this movie *****FIVE STARS

  7. james says:

    It’s a real eye opener that close to 99% of the audiences that saw this movie LOVED it while just under 50% of the so called “critics” do not.

    It just goes to show you how out of touch these so called “critics” are with the movie going public.

    This guy has NO clue what audiences like or want from a film.

    Instructions is a well written, fun, entertaining family movie. The people love it. Its getting huge applause after every showing.

    Everyone knows that critics write for other critics. Most critics are a bunch of self absorbed egos who think their opinions mean something.

    Those who can’t do criticize

    Go and see this movie and ignore this review.

    You WON’T be sorry!

  8. Jorge says:

    I would like to take a moment to remind everyone that this individual is just another human being… So has the right of an opinion just like myself or anyone at all… My point is, we don’t have to give it much credit to this person’s words… If he liked the film or not thats his problem, so as an myself I did not just love it, but I give it a 5 star, and not just because it made me laugh like I never had, but also because of the message its giving, INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED, best movie of 2013!!!! PERIOD.

  9. Carlos says:

    Great movie with unexpected events. Perhaps a new door for Mexican Dirctor Derbez. He deserves a chance in Hollywood. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

  10. miketcanes says:

    Excellent Film… I am a white American ( not that it matters ) who loved the film. Great movie. PERIOD

  11. Martha says:

    Went to see this with my daughter and teo small grandkids, we all loved it…love the balance in conedy and drama…but mainly the big twists/surprise at the end that ties the whole movie…taking my Mom to see it, oh yes¡

  12. Jaime says:

    I did not cry at the end, well maybe one tear did roll down my cheek! But next time, when I see it for the 4th time, I will not cry! I hope!

  13. Alicia says:

    This is by far one of the best movies I’ve seen; you truly need to see it to expectance this adorable funny and touching movie.

  14. hector says:

    I went to see the movie today … very heartfelt story. I agree the are technical faults such as attempting to include too much content in so little time but it’s definitely a success (tears throughout the movie). A movie is not only graded in technicality but also in the message(s) it attempts to convey, social issues portrayed. And this movie is definitely rich of such messages: people having sex without thinking of consequences (e.g. unwanted pregnancy, STDs), a mother not taking full responsibility of her acts and abandoning her child, being a responsible father even when your daughter is not your own, paternity testing, the importance of the presence of a father and a mother in a child’s life, the loss of a child. Then you also have the issue of an immigrant in the US who does not speak English yet he gets paid $10,000 per day as a stuntman – many many times the average American annual income – not your typical immigrant. There is so much in this movie. The film was made for Latin Americans to watch it but makes great efforts to reach the American audience as well. Includes American culture icons such as Barney, Batman, Adam Sandler, etc. I would have preferred for the movie to have ended as the camera was panning out into the air. Masterful twist at the end – it reminded me of the end of Planet of the Apes starring Charlton Heston. Highly recommended; I will watch it a second time.

  15. rosa says:

    As a Hispanic, I have to say I really enjoyed the movie. I did, however find the movie to be a bit cheesy at times. The beginning was a bit slow and made me think …why is everyone making a big fuss about this movie? I feel the real movie started once the 7yr old d Eugenio started to interact. I cried and laughed, laughed and cried and did both at the same time. I loved the jokes but do feel they were geared for a Hispanic audience. I will definitely be recommending this movie and I will definitely be taking my parents to an American movie theter for the first time.

  16. Ed says:

    Joe Leydon, was looking to your feedback on other critics you’ve done for movies. don’t you find it interesting that, well, in reality you have minimum feedback for most of theml, so the reaction from people to this one here must be grabbing your attention. It would be nice to know what you think, because one of two: or you made a mistake, or your skill doing this job might not really be there….

  17. Wayne says:

    Awesome movie, took my two boys and we all enjoyed it.

  18. Laylica says:

    The reviewer is an IDIOT!This movie was amazing.It made everyone CRY!
    The twist was sad and unexpected….
    10000 stars And even more for this movie!

  19. Arnold tobias says:

    I’ll put this movie right up there with The Notebook and Artist.

  20. robert says:

    Its prety clear variety has no taste. The movie I saw was showing you a right punch all during the movie and then at the end hit you with the left so hard I saw men crying like babys. I love the movies and I’ve seen ladys cry. But never full grown men that I would be afraid to meet in a alley crying like little girls.it was a amazing experience that I think everybody should see. I think you need to fire your criticsthat I’m obviously sure that they don’t know what they’re talking about and find somebody who has a little taste. I thought the name of your magazine variety and not stupidity

  21. Greg g says:

    The reviewer is a loser. Plain and simple. Sorry if every movie is not The Godfather. loser! Tisis a great movie.

  22. Maria says:

    Everyone is entitled to his/her opinion and this writer of course is entitled to his. What is sad is that instead of a movie critique, it sounds more like a resentful criticism out of jealousy for the tremendous success the movie has had! It doesn’t take much to sit there criticizing others. That is why there are many critics and only a few screenplay writer-producer-director-editor and actors like Derbez! The movie is a well thought, well balanced, movie with many elements that worked very well together. Acting was great! Everyone did a very convincing job to provoke laughs or tears and to make everyone feel a whole range of emotions. But then again, there are a few people who are insensitive! Perhaps this critic is one of them!

  23. Doris says:

    Is a beautiful history,Eugenio Derbez you deserve an Oscar!!! You are amazing.

  24. This review is very harsh!!! The movie is more than what the author states in his poor observation. I recommend this movie to everyone.

  25. Ashley says:

    I have heard from many friends that the part of the jokes was lost in the transaltion, but I still loved the movie.I dont agree with this review at all! It seems to me like someone is mad at the fact that mexicans are starting to rock in Hollywood!

  26. Daniel Pena says:

    I don’t agree with this comments. I totally loved this movie and I will absolutely recommend anyone to go and watch this movie.

  27. fernando says:

    Reading this review will make anyone think twice about handing over some cash to a theater clerk and getting a pair of tickets for this movie. Funny how the sales of this movie totally contradicts everything this writer has written and its not that mexicans or hispanics are buying tickets just because its in spanish. We have had other spanish movies in u.s. theaters ( salvando a el soldado perez ) and they have not been blockbusters. I encourage everyone to see it. Great movie and dont go by this review, you can tell this writer will never understand spanish comedy.

  28. Pepita Mendieta says:

    I do not regret taking my husband and daughter to watch this movie, I just loved it. Many important things will be lost in translation, but it is worth it.

  29. lu says:

    This movie received what other multi-million movies did not: A standing ovation at the end of the film. :-), I guess a lot of the greatness of this movie was lost in translation, I do NOT regret choosing this over Riddick.

  30. Dee Gee says:

    I think this review is completely off in its description of this incredible flick! The writer of this review is extremely bias obviously taking personal the fact that lesbians were considered the “villains”. Weather you are gay or straight shouldn’t affect your review if you understand that There needs to be bad guys in order to emotionally attach the audience to the main characters. Absolutely amazing movie!

  31. David McLean says:

    Joe needs to stop writing reviews in the hopes of appealing to his snobby contemporaries and begin writing reviews for his public. I’m sorry Joe that this movie isn’t about butterfly vaginas, French mimes getting hit in the face with feces, or some other boring decoded piece of crap that you and the other idiots passing as professional critics have time and again deemed with high marks in order to gain fame and acceptance from the established cult of hacks that you sprang forth from.

    We here on planet earth do not watch film as a way to show off our own egos, but as a form of entertainment/enjoyment. That is why you and your kind, with the help of the Internet, have successfully made yourself obsolete and your opinions unreliable.

    In a world where anyone can be a critic, and popular opinion is more reliable than the the rankings of a self-absorbed Hollywood wannabe why would we ever take advice on what films to from someone like you, a professional “Movie Heckler”?

  32. Ray says:

    Joe needs to dominate Spanish and then re-write his review. Jokes loose the meaning in translation! This comedy is perhaps not expensive but it is one of the best I have paid for in a long time.

    Derbez is one talented individual love him ;)

  33. AmoelCine says:

    I just this movie and i loved it! I loved that it did not linger on any one sub theme too much the time of his bachelor days in acapulco, the time he travels to LA, maggy growing up, the mother, the trials it was all a done in good times. The beginning for me was extremely funny. I loved the jokes about how she will grow up talking english and the color difference growing up in LA vs Mexico… all joke the hispanic community has heard before thus mainly hispanics will understand. OVer all it’s a great movie. Big Daddy Mexican equivalent. Joe Laydon you need to open your mind some more sir cuz you were very wrong on your opinion. Yes I know we are all entitled to our own opinions but hey with the expetion of like 2 comments everybody else does not agree with you.
    I am extremely glad that hispanics are supporting the latino film industry! The applauses and the waiting time to see this move is very much worth the time for a good movie.

  34. F.L. says:

    I just don’t understand why they have a guy named Joe Leydon watching a movie that is relates more to the Hispanic community. Joe needs to go stay what he knows. Like Dear John, Twilight and the Avengers.

    • Dave says:

      Keep in mind, this is the same critic who recommended “BURT WONDERSTONE”…

    • Guadalupe says:

      Joe Leydon needs to take a few courses in multicultural issues and a few more on art. His criticism of the movie is naïve and uninformed. He overlooks what most people has been able to see. Eugenio is creative, sensitive, convincing,, and manages to create a very unique and different story out of theme that could represent a grotesque and sometimes common reality. I believe Mr. Leydon’s comments are a discredit to your company and speak very poorly about the type of critic experts that you hire. I believe you should be more careful and use experts who are able to be objective (not guided by stereotypes) and to perceive reality and creativity from a multicultural perspective.

  35. April Ab says:

    oh, and people, since when do critics like movies that we do? Rarely. They get paid to voice their opinion. Their opinion usually is lousy. I’ve never seen one that agreed with mine, or the money the movie rakes in too.

  36. April Ab says:

    This movie was awesome. The critic has no clue what he’s talking about. I don’t even know Spanish and normally hate subtitles, but this one is different and cute. It was sad she died at the end, but a good twist considering all the audience thought it was him who was dying.

  37. Wow – this reviewer really got spanked :-) I’m gonna see this movie!

  38. Ed says:

    While I understand you having no understanding of the Mexican culture or sense of humor, your review of this movie is pathetic and a shame. Not balanced at all. If any, this is a comedy with a great story and it would not be such a great movie without that unexpected ending. Yes, maybe a little bit long, but it had me entertained from start to finish. I assume that if the actor was Adam Sandler, based in NY and a Jewish comedy you would change your opinion to “One of the best comedy’s of the year”

    • April Ab says:

      I agree Ed, but most critics are too critical of movies. He’ll be raking in the cash while being criticized by American critics. He won’t care. It’s so far the best movie I’ve seen this year. I expect The sequel to Hunger Games to be the best, but so far it’s this one

  39. angel says:

    Best movie I saw this summer, a beautiful and fun filled film definitely encourage everyone to watch it!!

  40. Evelyn A Escamilla says:

    Joe Ledon- so are his critiques based on his experience as director, screen writer, spectator, or neither? About 90% of his language argues on the fact that he feeds on negative energy! lol Eugenio Dervez, on the other hand, as the Creative & Superlatively Talented Comedian that he is, would applaud Oscar Wilde for his famous words, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.”

  41. RD says:

    I agree with your review! People on this blog need to understand that the fact that one “enjoyed the movie” does not make the constructive criticisms untrue! I enjoyed “Nacho Libre” and “Casa De Mi Padre” but that doesn’t make them blockbuster movies! Some parts WERE overplayed and even unnecessary in my opinion. I liked Valentin, but The ” lady’s man” character didn’t fit! The end was definitely sad but I agree, it was unnecessary and shameless! And enough with the “don’t understand hispanic culture.” We’re all human and we all understand the ups and downs that life brings us. Overall, a good movie, but not a blockbuster!

    • Sophia Gracia says:

      RD, did you mean “one in every seat in the movie theatre enjoyed this movie?” Comparing Nacho Libre vs Instructions Not Included, really? Really? Really? Vote for Pedro (in my sarcastic voice), lol.

    • Maria says:

      Shameless? The death of a child ca never be considered shameless!
      Unnecessary? You didn’t follow the story!

    • Limber Santos says:

      Nacho Libre and Casa de mi Padre aren’t better than this movie but it makes sense that those movies where directed to different markets. Derbez was surprised about how good his movie is doing he wasn’t even expecting make more than 3 million on the whole expedition of the movie. In both of those movies a burp makes the audience laugh like a big joke and in the Derbez movie a simple thing like no children’s but dogs are welcomed make the people laugh. Those are certainly cultural things and you cannot ignore them.

  42. DAN says:

    JOE WHAT MOVIE DID YOU GO SEE……………………………

    • Joe Leydon says:

      The one that RD did.

      • Sophia Gracia says:

        So, it’s been a couple of weeks since your post, tell me what your thoughts are today about the turn out at the box office?

      • Sophia Gracia says:

        Lmao!

      • Martha says:

        Went to see this with my daughter and two small grandkids, we all loved it, three generatiobs…love the balance in conedy and drama…but mainly the big twists/surprise at the end that ties the whole movie…taking my Mom to see it, oh yes¡ Joe Leydon, you are not critiquing this movie with professionalism, you are being biased!

      • Joe Black says:

        I bet RD is either Joe’s best friend (or about to become), or his some sort of relative… I’ve never seen a critic spanked as hard as poor Joe…

      • DAN says:

        Eugenio Derbez’s latest film “Instructions not included” made history last weekend when it became the highest grossing Spanish-language film to open in North America. The film shattered box office records, and if you look at the number of tickets sold per theater last weekend, the film even surpassed films with much larger budgets like “The Butler.”

        “Instructions” averaged an extraordinary $22,594 per screen, compared to “The Butler” which averaged $6,066 per screen.

        “Now there’s curiosity from the general American market, they’re asking what’s happening with this movie, what is it about this film that has led to this huge box office success,” Derbez told Fusion. The Mexican star is not only the main actor in the film; he also wrote and directed it.

        The stars are aligned for “Instructions Not Included” to break even more records this weekend as the number of theaters screening the film doubles. The film is set to open in 717 theaters across the country today.

  43. Limber Santos says:

    Joe Laydon you are too far away from understand the meaning of the movie ! If you could at least understand the jokes, but you didnt , this movie its a clear example of how different the cultures are, and latin American cultures are more complex that you really think! Learn a little bit and then see the movie again and you’ll find it beautiful!!!

  44. Juan Gutierrez says:

    This movie gave me my money’s worth , not true for far too Many movies today,

  45. What Hollywood movie is not formulaic? But happens to be different when it is a foreign movie. I just hit against the walls when Public Libraries in the U.S have: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Spanish (a place where you can actually find any other language books but english -French, Italian… what the heck it is not English put it there!-). So with that being said, Derbez used a very popular formula to build a drama and he got away with it by hitting hard whatever is on the movies right now.

  46. Great Movie, very funny, but makes you cries. It has a very unexpected great ending. He did great to combine the English Language to feet his purpose. Espectacular, su comicidad como siempre sobre pasa sus propios limites. Sin embargo muestra su calidad humana y refleja que es un excelete actor. La nina tambien estubo una excelente para ser una primerisa.

  47. Hugo says:

    Es asombroso ,, nunca habia visto que al terminar una funcion toda la gente aplaudiera incluyendo blancos, negros , latinos,, muy buena pelicula,, al final de el dia la gente Es la que decide , no Los criticos

    • from latin america says:

      Y como sabes que esos blancos y negros no eran latinos.Yo fui a verla y habian asiaticos que eran latinos.Mi amiga es guera y es de México.Además la niña hizo el papel de Maggie es mexicana.Buena película.

  48. L mar says:

    Great great great twist on typical family nuclear expectations. Gladly surprised ending affecting my maternal instincts every step of the movie. Sold out, had to wait 3 hours, well worth it. Movie should be released in more theaters. Mainly interested in reading the uninteresting comments of 20th century critics whos views of movies reflect the Republican agents “backwards and non-current views of the families of today.

  49. Evelyn from Miami says:

    I went to see the movie with my family last night. It was great to see my 85 year old aunt so transfixed to the the screen as she never even watches TV. What an awesome movie so much so that I awakened this morning thinking about the many wonderful scenes and a feeling of awe. It is truly a must see movie. I would definitely see it again. I didn’t pay much attention to the translations because I am hispanic. As I was reading Joe Leydon’s commentary, I wonder if we watched the same film. Is it possible that so much was lost in the translation? At the end of the movie the entire audience clapped, I had never witnessed this at the end of any other movie.

  50. Miami says:

    Leydon must understand and learn about Hispanic culture before comment about this movie. I loved the movie, I went with my 7 years old son who mostly speaks English and he enjoyed it from beginning to end. I don’t think that the mother was shown as the villain, it only showed what a mother or father will do for their child’s custody. When the mother ‘s girlfriend showed up, the father told the girl to remember about “different families” which indicates he has taught his daughter about life and values and to accept people with their differences. This movie makes you laugh and cry with a special touch that only Hispanic can feel. The english translation wasn’t the same meaning…I watch the movie in Miami, the room was full and people stand and clap to congratulate the Excellent job! A must see movie! Great job Derbez!!! I will wait for more bilingual movies!!

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