Combustible Celluloid
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With: Aislinn Derbez, Mauricio Ochmann, Papile Aurora, Luis Arrieta, Daniela Schmidt, Juan Diego Covarrubias, José Ron, Magali Boysselle
Written by: Issa López, Ari Rosen
Directed by: Pedro Pablo Ibarra
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some sexuality/nudity and language
Language: Spanish, with English subtitles
Running Time: 99
Date: 02/27/2015

A La Mala (2015)

2 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Spy Fidelity

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The Mexican romantic comedy A la Mala is entirely conventional, and if it had been made in English, it likely would have been a waste of time. But perhaps because it's in Spanish, or perhaps because of the charisma of star Aislinn Derbez, it generates enough charm and goodwill -- if not exactly laughs -- to ride pleasantly off into the sunset.

Maria Laura Medina (Derbez), who is called "Mala" (or "cruel") by her friends, is an aspiring actress, often losing roles after criticizing them during auditions. Her best friend and roommate Kika (Papile Aurora) asks her to use her feminine wiles to determine whether her boyfriend is faithful, and pays her for the job. Word gets out, and Mala begins earning money from other women who want their own men "tested." Trouble comes when one of her targets turns out to be a producer she previously tangled with on an audition. She begins to see his good side and eventually falls in love with him. Unfortunately, if she bungles this task, she will lose her first good acting job in the process.

It starts with the use of a goofy "sidekick," as well as a typically, blandly handsome leading man, who doesn't generate much heat with his lovely lady; the movie is far less sexy than it could have been. It all quickly degenerates into the "lie" plot. But in her role, Derbez generates intelligence and dignity; her actress character fights for a role worthy of her, rather than taking insultingly shallow or sexist parts. She's savvy in the ways of seduction, but appealingly clueless when it comes to romance. Director Pedro Pablo Ibarra lets the movie run on a bit long, but at least fills it with lovely, swoon-inducing music and scenery.

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