'The Valet' review: Eugenio Derbez wasted in another vapid romantic comedy
Courtesy of Hulu
Between “Overboard” and now “The Valet,” screenwriters and directors must enjoy using Eugenio Derbez as the scapegoat for wooden, one-dimensional screenplays with minimal character development. Such is the case in Richard Wong’s straight-to-streaming release, “The Valet,” which finds Derbez playing a local car valet entangled in a convoluted cover-up scheme surrounding a mega superstar. Nothing reaches beyond caiaracture and stereotypes, though Derbez, bless his soul, knows how to play into the hand he’s dealt, elevating an otherwise underwritten role.
He plays Antonio, a lovingly dedicated father recently dumped by his wife (they’re not officially divorced yet), trying to make ends meet by parking cars at a swanky, Hollywood restaurant. Outside of his family, Antonio doesn’t have much passion, struggling to find a purpose besides providing for his mother, who is sleeping with their Korean landlord, Mr. Kim. Nothing wrong with those logistics and he’s a patient and very understanding individual, but one wonders if “The Valet” could have delved into the hardships those from Latin American backgrounds, like Antonio, endure, especially in the suburbs of Los Angeles, but the movie, in a terribly hatched subplot about gentrification, barely touches the surface.
Suddenly, our titular driver becomes involved with an A-lister actress named Olivia Allan (Samara Weaving) who needs to trick the press into thinking she’s in another relationship after getting caught, via TMZ, sleeping with a married billionaire (played with smarmy glee by Max Greenfield). Before you can even question how this plot could actually work, Olivia begins taking Antonio to public appearances, exploiting and making him a viral sensation overnight. To be fair, Olivia is never mean-spirited about the arrangement, but it would have been nice had “The Valet” given Derbez something other than a doormat characterization.
There’s some moments of humor and grace: Antonio getting razzied by his friends/co-workers during their occupational downtime is the movie’s greatest strength, and Derbez is so immensely likable there’s no problem rooting for his success. Hell, it makes you grateful that more folks saw the actor’s charmer side in this year’s Best Picture winner, “Coda.” He’s still charming in “The Valet,” utilizing the quirky shyness of Antonio to his advantage, but the formulaic plotting and implausible situational humor, leaves him and the entire ensemble looking silly.
THE VALET debuts on Hulu, Friday May 20th.