Luis Guzmán and Edgar Garcia carry a lightweight comedy about NYPD cops in The City of Lights.
It’s conceivable that they somehow could have come up with a more generic-sounding title than “Puerto Ricans in Paris” (“Fish Out of Water Comedy,” maybe?), but it’s difficult to see how the film itself could be any less substantial without evaporating on screen. In fact, it’s arguable that even the most casually concocted “Road” movies co-starring Bob Hope and Bing Crosby had more meat on their bones than this shambling, slapdash trifle about two New York cops improbably employed to crack an haute couture case in the City of Lights.
Luis Guzmán and Edgar Garcia give the project much more than it ever gives them, sustaining audience interest and generating mild amusement more or less through sheer force of will as they amble through a threadbare plot that has something do with the search for the purloined prototype of a high-end handbag, and something else to with culture clashes that occur during those long stretches when the handbag hunt is largely forgotten.
Guzmán plays Luis, a swaggering motormouth long teamed with Eddie (Garcia), his easygoing brother-in-law and fellow NYPD detective, for undercover takedowns of criminals who peddle counterfeits of expensive name-brand fashion items.
Their impressively successful arrest rate captures the attention of Vincent (Frederic Anscombre), a French fashion industry exec, and Colette (Alice Taglioni), a designer whose boutique company recently was purchased by Vincent’s outfit. Together, they recruit Luis and Eddie for an assignment in France: If the New York cops can retrieve a handbag that was stolen from Colette’s studio — and that is being held for ransom by someone threatening to flood the market with knockoffs — they’ll split a six-figure finder’s fee.
Naturally, Luis and Eddie are on the next plane to Paris, where the working-class buddies enjoy luxury lodging and other similarly lavish perks during their copious free time. Just as naturally, Luis spends most of his waking hours redefining the term Ugly American while crudely hitting on any female in his orbit, while sweet-natured Eddie effortlessly charms every woman he meets, including Colette, even as he strives to remain faithful to his nagging wife (Rosie Perez) back home.
Reunited with director and co-scripter Ian Edelman, with whom they previously worked on the HBO sitcom “Making It in America,” Guzmán and Garcia are given plenty of time to riff, squabble and crack wise, all in an attempt to flesh out their one-dimensional roles. Some of their comic business is tedious (a scene in which they impersonate Arab sheikhs to fake out a suspect is too lame even to be offensive), but their squabbling give-and-take is good for a few welcome laughs.
The female co-stars, including Rosario Dawson as a commitment-ready beauty who’s weary of Luis’ marriage-averse mindset, function primarily as straight women to the two leads. For some inexplicable reason, Alice Taglioni sports garishly hued hair during the film’s final scenes. That, unfortunately, doesn’t make her seem any funnier.
To give credit where it’s due: “Puerto Ricans in Paris,” which Focus World is opening in theatrical and VOD release June 10, one year after its L.A. Film Festival premiere, features some attractive exterior shots filmed in the titular city. Interiors filmed in Prague aren’t bad to look at, either.