When all its trappings are stripped away, “La Boda de Valentina” boils down to an age-old rom-com dilemma: Is our heroine going to choose Handsome Guy No. 1 or Handsome Guy No. 2?
Of course, there is more to “La Boda de Valentina,” which means “Valentina’s Wedding.” A lot of things are tossed at viewers; some work, some don’t. But it’s a genial, pleasant farce that grows more enjoyable once it calms down and stops being so frantic.
Valentina (Marimar Vega) is a successful businesswoman who lives in New York City. She works for a firm owned by the family of her fiance, Jason (Ryan Carnes). The two are adorable: He proposes in a grand manner; she messes up the moment by flipping off the camera. It’s all quite charming, and Vega and Carnes generate considerable heat.
Valentina hails from Mexico City, and her family still lives there. We quickly discover why she’s never introduced Jason to the clan, dubbed “the twisted Mexican mafia version of the Kennedys” by one character. Her spineless father is running for mayor, pushed by the family. Her brother is a social-media punchline called “Lord Crybaby” by the press. Her stepmother is a Botoxed bombshell who is a former beauty queen: “Miss Jalisco,” she clarifies.
As part of a scheme to hide their finances, the family marries Valentina on paper to another man (when a character questions the logic of this, it’s explained away with a “hey, it’s Mexico” shrug). The groom is Angel, an ex-flame of Valentina’s who has developed programs to help kids in low-income neighborhoods — sigh! He’s smooth with a social conscience, a good dresser and drives a classic Ford. Plus, he’s played by funnyman Omar Chaparro, so he’s witty to boot.
Eventually, all these worlds collide. Valentina heads down to Mexico to see why the immigration office reports that she’s already married. She initially battles with Angel, then the two grow closer as they reminisce over old times. Perhaps the movie’s neatest feat is Vega and Chaparro also seem perfect together, and their banter feels comfortable and cozy.
Jason follows after getting a whiff of what’s going on via the Internet (a trusting sort, he’s never even bothered to Google her). He winds up hitting the town with Angel for a night of tequila, lucha libre and macho one-upmanship. It’s funny stuff; Angel teaches Jason how to heckle Mexican wrestlers and they argue over who treated Valentina better. An Alejandro Fernandez concert vs. a Coldplay show? Hmmm…
When director Marco Polo Constandse (he helmed another agreeable Mexican rom-com, “Cásese Quien Pueda”) keeps the focus on the three main characters, the movie really gels. Vega is engaging and both men get moments to shine: Carnes makes the most of his tequila-fueled night while Chaparro is hilarious, singing along with Jose Jose’s “El Triste” during a drunken moment.
The three are so well-matched you don’t know who Valentina will choose, and that’s where the movie’s charms lie. Valentina’s family and the political machinations can make the film seem overstuffed and busy, but when the focus is on these three, it feels just right.
Lionsgate presents a film directed by Marco Polo Constandse. Rated R (for adult language). In Spanish and English with subtitles. Running time: 99 minutes. Now playing at local theaters.
Randy Cordova, The Arizona Republic