The popular Mexican-American comic should please fans and win a few new ones in his first feature-length concert pic.
Even after the 100-pound weight loss that provides much of the fodder for his first theatrical concert film, Mexican-American comedian Gabriel Iglesias cuts the contented, spherical figure of a well-fed house cat — one possible interpretation of his nickname, Fluffy. But Iglesias (who played the club DJ in “Magic Mike”) is the one who has the audience eating out of his hand for most of “The Fluffy Movie,” an enjoyable if never electrifying record of his Unity Through Laughter standup tour. One of the rare concert films to earn a full-scale cinema release in the VOD era, the Open Road release will test whether Fluffy’s formidable fan base (including 6 million Facebook followers) can translate into box office numbers anywhere near those of Kevin Hart (whose two recent concert pics grossed a combined $40 million). Those who do turn out will surely be pleased, as will a few Fluffy virgins (like this reviewer), too.
It doesn’t take long in “The Fluffy Movie” to understand Iglesias’ broad appeal (which, judging from the shots of the audience, includes a wide cross-section of ages and races). He isn’t an angry, explosive comic force in the Richard Pryor or George Carlin mold, and he doesn’t work any bluer than an average episode of “Family Guy” (maybe less), but he’s wonderfully at ease in front of the crowd, and his best jokes — which are more like long, Bill Cosby-ish stories — strike a universal chord. Like Cosby’s, too, much of Iglesias’ material turns on the subject of parenting — specifically, his labor-intensive efforts to communicate with his moody teenage stepson, whose privileged upbringing runs starkly counter to Iglesias’ own as one of six children raised by a single welfare mother in Section 8 housing in Long Beach, California. (Iglesias ends the film with an onscreen dedication to “all the stepparents making a difference in a kid’s life, even if those kids don’t know it yet.”)
In a scripted prologue modeled on the one that opened Eddie Murphy’s 1987 concert pic, “Raw,” Iglesias offers a tongue-in-cheek depiction of how his mother (Jacqueline Obradors) first met his mariachi-singer father (Jeremy Ray Valdez); his own entrance into the world (at the hands of a drunken OB-GYN played by fellow comic Ron White); and the stoner videostore clerk (Tommy Chong) who lets the preteen Gabriel (Julio Cesar Chavez) rent Murphy’s movie on VHS, thereby seeding his own career ambitions. Those scenes (credited to director Jay Lavender) give “The Fluffy Movie” a dollop of cinematic ambition, but also serve as a setup for Iglesias’ most inspired and heartfelt routines, about the sudden reappearance of his birth father in his life after a 30-year absence.
In between, Iglesias — attired in a loud Hawaiian shirt, jean shorts and high-top sneakers, an elegant replica of the Golden Gate Bridge at his back (the concert was filmed in San Jose) — brings his warmly ingratiating style to tales of his weight battles (including a traumatizing visit to a “Center for the Morbidly Obese”) and a recent concert tour of India (where he finds surprising correspondences between Indian and Mexican culture). The stories flow smoothly into one another, enhanced by his deft vocal characterizations, from the pinched, nasal whine of a harried waiting-room nurse to the clipped, upper-crust diction of a British manservant.
Some bits — such as Iglesias’ taunting of his stepson with tales of his mother’s libido — don’t work nearly as well, and at times the material tilts a bit too much into self-empowerment territory, though given Iglesias’ journey, it’s hard to begrudge him. At one point, the comic says that fans have asked him what he’ll have to talk about if he keeps losing weight, to which Iglesias answers that he will always have stories to tell. To its credit, “The Fluffy Movie” leaves you wanting to hear more of them.