Instructions Not Included (2013) Review

Eugenio Derbez’s tour de force Instructions Not Included is the story of the bond a father holds with his child. This comedy of sorts is beautifully told from the male perspective and enhanced tenfold by the music of Carlo Siliotto.

Writer, director and leading man, Eugenio Derbez is Valentin, a lady’s man with no ties to commitment. After a life of fun and sun growing up in Acapulco, he finds himself the father of an eight-month-old baby girl. He sets out on a mission to return his daughter to her mother and finds himself to be a fully committed, hands-on dad.

Loreto Peralta is the lovely and enigmatic seven year old Maggie. Maggie has been living the life of any little girl’s dream. She has an amazing and loving father and spends her days on Hollywood movie sets. Her only regret is not knowing her mother.

When Maggie’s mother Julie unexpectedly returns, Valentin and Maggie embark on an unforeseen adventure that leads both parents to prove their love for the child. Julie, played by Jessica Lindsey, is difficult, but lovable as the neglectful cum late-blooming mother.

Set against the backdrops of Acapulco, Mexico City and Los Angeles, Instructions Not Included is visually stimulating. Derbez accomplished a great deal working on what some may consider a modest budget of five million dollars. White sand beaches, bustling cities and gorgeously lavish apartments create a world of excitement and indulgence that will captivate audiences.

The screenplay for the film was written in about one year’s time. However, acquiring funding for the film took Eugenio an additional eleven years. Many directors and producers were sought before the right chemistry and necessary finances were secured. At twice the budget of traditional Mexican movies, the expectation was twice as great.

Once completed, an American premiere was set for Labor Day weekend. Instructions Not Included has grossed forty-four million dollars in the United States and continues to slash box office records and receive premieres in Spanis-speaking countries in South America.

The loving notes of composer Carlo Siliotto are the buoyant and captivating co-star that synergize the story with its characters. Upbeat and pompous to thoughtful and lulling, the sixty-five piece orchestra’s presence is ripe with passion and omniscience.

Derbez has revealed that Siliotto was intentionally given the script minus the list of cast and characters. This was an attempt to keep him from writing music specific to the actors. Having worked together in the past, Siliotto and Derbez had established a fondness and respect for each other. Siliotto’s composition for the final scene was nearly complete before Derbez ever heard it. The DVD Features offer more background on the music.

Instructions Not Included is spoken in English and Spanish. The core characters of the film are a Spanish speaking man, Valentin, and an English speaking woman, Julie. This is of special note because Derbez was inspired to write the film after viewing an Italian drama, the musical score for which convinced him to create his own screenplay complete with an Italian composer. The international trio of talent is but one component to this delightful and surprising film.

The first draft of the script had Valentin as the father to a little boy. When many months of casting failed to produce a blond-haired, blue-eyed, bilingual boy with no detectable accent, the casting call became co-ed. With only one week before shooting was scheduled to begin and still no child to play the character, Eugenio went online and posted to a social networking site.

Almost immediately, a fan posted about a little girl that fit the bill of the director perfectly. Newcomer Loreto Peralta had no aspiration to become an actress. After seeing her endearing portrayal of Maggie, audiences will find this information very difficult to believe and associate the serendipity of events as a part of the magic of the story.

Originally, Derbez sought to have the film titled Man of Stone. The Spanish translation of the phrase is very similar to the Spanish language translation for the word stuntman, Valentin’s line of employment. However, because of Eugenio Derbez’s international recognition as a comedian, the title was thought to confuse his core audience. The title Instructions Not Included was believed by producers to be less confusing for the conveyance of the anticipated emotional appeal of the film.

A warning: Instructions Not Included is a mature story with excellent comic relief. Younger audiences may have many questions regarding content when viewing the film. All audiences will find it difficult to avoid the hypnotic cheer and array of characters that make this film a must see.