“Puerto Ricans in Paris” Review: Predictable but Painless

Courtesy of Focus Features
Courtesy of Focus Features

While watching a film such as Puerto Ricans in Paris, only one question is really relevant: Was the alliteration created for the movie, or was the movie created for the alliteration?

Regardless, the title seems a little on-the-nose. It simultaneously markets the film and says almost nothing about it. It lets the audience know that the movie is a fish-out-of-water adventure, and that it features Puerto Ricans. All of the other blanks can be filled in later. While this is an ingenious move from a marketing perspective, it can often lead to a story that seems rather formulaic. In this particular case, the Puerto Ricans are two New York City cops who specialize in finding fake handbags. When a handbag is stolen from a French designer just before its premiere, these cops must find the thief before the market is flooded with fakes.

Is there anybody out there who doesn’t like Luis Guzmán? He’s had a small role in just about everything, but rarely does he get his face on the poster, let alone a starring role. It’s a combination of the lack of quality roles written for minority actors and his unconventional appearance that prevents him of getting the screen time he so deserves, which is really quite a shame. As a prolific character actor, he’s rarely in something long enough to impact its overall quality, but is almost always a treat to watch. That’s why it’s so exciting to see him as the leading man in this film. It’s only disappointing that the movie doesn’t give him much support along the way.

The problem with a film being this formulaic is that the audience knows every turn the movie is going to make within the first ten minutes. The subplots all make themselves apparent pretty early. The cops are friends but one of them keeps pushing the other back. One cop’s relationship with his wife is heading through some rocky times. The other cop has commitment issues. It’s clear from the moment each plotline is introduced how it resolves. This causes the pace to slow to a lull – even with the film being only 80 minutes – as the audience is always a few steps ahead of the film.

However, the movie’s saving grace is the charisma of its co-stars. Guzman takes his opportunity to shine and owns every second of it. He shares the screen with real-life friend Edgar Garcia and the amount of on-screen chemistry they have is unreal. Even some of the silly and repetitive gags are so much fun to watch when performed by this duo. Together, they keep the movie from being hard to watch, but that’s not to say it’s a huge disappointment when the film ends. Nevertheless, their chemistry is infectious, and it fosters fun performances by the rest of the supporting actors as well.

Despite all of its weaknesses, it’s really easy to root for a film like Puerto Ricans in Paris. It feels like it’s allowing those who are normally silenced to speak. Even when the song is the same, it’s always nice to hear different voices in the medium of film. It would just be so much cooler if there was a little bit of originality.

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