The summer movie season arrives next weekend with the forthcoming release of the latest Disney-Marvel movie, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, but one little engine hoping to chug around the House of Mouse is Pantelion’s How to Be a Latin Lover. Directed by Ken Marino and starring Eugenio Derbez, How to Be a Latin Lover defied the odds last week. The film made it to No. 2 on its opening weekend with a $12 million gross in domestic box office, beating out the Tom Hanks-Emma Watson drama The Circle and being a serious challenger against the latest Fast and Furious actioner.
How to Be a Latin Lover continues to show the power of Latinos at the box office, as 89% of the film’s audience was Hispanic. It also illustrates Derbez’s lure as an actor in the US. The Mexican star is a director, producer, writer and creator with a strong body of work going back to the 1980s in his native country. He’s best known stateside for his 2013 comedy Instructions Not Included which similarly defied box office pundits’ expectations that year, grossing over $44 million domestically to become the highest-grossing Spanish-language film ever in the States. Latin Lover had a bigger opening weekend and it’s safe to assume it could overtake its predecessor’s overall gross.
For all the past history, and despite overwhelming evidence that minorities turn out to see films starring minorities, most entertainment sites remain astounded at Latin Lover’s success. (It’s one of the great film fallacies next to “men don’t see movies starring women.”) You’d think after the likes of Hidden Figures, Moonlight, even Derbez’s Instructions, that people would start assuming these movies have the potential for big business. It’s currently being prognosticated that Latin Lover will stay on top as it expands into more theaters in the wake of Guardians of the Galaxy’s release this weekend. The film is solid counter-programming for non-Marvel people, has received generally good reviews and has a large female cast just in time for Mother’s Day.
Derbez has been compared to the likes of Tyler Perry, in terms of catering to a minority market and getting his fans to turn out for his films as well as his success as a non-white director, but that’s where the comparisons stop. Derbez has said he hopes to be “just one more” Latino star able to make good. During an interview with Remezcla he says he wants to break down stereotypes by “poking fun at it,” as he did with the Latin lover trope.
Derbez himself isn’t content to slow down. He’s set to star in a remake of the Goldie Hawn-Kurt Russell comedy Overboard, costarring with Anna Faris. He hopes to avoid playing stereotypical Latino characters – involving drugs or other crimes – for the foreseeable future. “One of the things people say they loved about Instructions was that they were watching a Latino on the big screen who was a good father and good human being…They were like, ‘Finally!’” he told Remezcla.
Hopefully Hollywood won’t underestimate the lure of Derbez next time. Until then, you can currently see How to Be a Latin Lover in select theaters with an expansion to additional cities next weekend.