They’re the people you don’t see.
They clean your home and watch your kids. They mow your lawn and deliver your food. They’re not truly invisible, obviously. But do you ever really look them in the eye?
The Valet gives one of them a starring role.
Antonio is a parking attendant in Los Angeles and he’s used to not being seen. People take him for granted. They toss him their keys and keep walking.
But then, one day, a paparazzi snaps a picture of him outside a hotel with Olivia, a beautiful actress. And Antonio is suddenly no longer invisible, as the press – encouraged by the star’s management, who have their own reasons for the deception – report that Olivia has an exciting new man in her life.
A parking attendant named Antonio, who’s about to discover how fame can change people.
If The Valet sounds familiar, it should. For one thing, it’s a remake of a 2006 French comedy. For another, it’s a classic mistaken-identity/fish-out-of-water story, with roots that go back to the silent clowns. (It’s easy to imagine Buster Keaton doing something great with this gimmick, back in the ‘20s.)
The difference is the French film has been rewritten with a Latino emphasis, and devised as a vehicle for Mexican-American comedian Eugenio Derbez.
Derbez may be unfamiliar to a large part of the English-speaking audience, although he’s a huge Univision star and his movie Instructions Not Included set records as America’s biggest Spanish-language hit. He also recently made How to Be a Latin Lover with Salma Hayek and had a supporting part in the Oscar-winning Coda.
He’s definitely a charmer, although at 60, he may be too old for the struggling and uncertain Antonio. He also tends to mug his way through some of the comedy. Perhaps it’s because he’s not getting a lot of help from the rest of the cast, including the unexceptional Samara Weaving as Olivia. Derbez has to pick up the slack to make the movie work.
The script, by two non-Latinos, also tends to oversell things, particularly its own world. There’s a lot of stuff about big noisy families and terrific tamales that feels like an outsider’s exaggerated idea of what all Mexican-American life must be like. (Imagine if My Big Fat Greek Wedding had been written by two people who weren’t Greek.) It’s both broad and shallow.
It’s not done out of any meanness, of course. Nothing in The Valet is. Like Antonio, the film’s always working hard, always smiling, always beyond reproach (it’s stubbornly family-friendly and apolitical.) But even when it asks us to really take a look at Antonio, and all the people like him, it never quite sees them in full.