Instructions Not Included

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
Instructions Not Included Movie Poster Image
Mix of comedy and tragedy in Mexican dad-daughter tale.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 115 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 13+
Based on 7 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Depicts how parenthood can bring life-changing positives and joys for even the most incorrigible of characters. Demonstrates how unselfishness, unconditional love, and finding beauty in individual moments all contribute to a rich, meaningful life. Coping with fear (both imagined and real) is a central theme.

Positive Role Models & Representations

A dad and a mom start out as irresponsible, self-involved semi-adults, but they become unselfish, devoted, and mature parents as they bond with their young daughter. In flashback, the hero's well-meaning but misguided older father subjects his young son to assorted terrors in order to "tame his fear"; the events profoundly affect the little boy.


There's an incredibly sad death that may upset younger/more sensitive viewers. Slapstick action in multiple sequences. The lead character is a comically inept stunt man who jumps from great heights, smashes repeatedly into a brick wall, is shot in the bottom, appears to be set on fire, and more. On a few occasions, the audience is led to believe that he hasn't survived a stunt, but he soon recovers. A toddler has two close calls: at the edge of a swimming pool and on a wild motorcycle escape with her father. Frequent shots of imagined snarling wolves and one encounter with a scorpion represent the lead adult character's difficulty in dealing with fear -- those scenes are set up early by an unwittingly cruel father who places his son in jeopardy (pushing him from a high cliff, facing wild animals) in order to make him fearless. A little girl is bullied by her peers.


There's no actual sex or nudity, but expect lots of sexual innuendo, farcical bed-hopping, and many meant-to-be-funny shots of large breasts and male butts. The adult main character starts out as a playboy; a long sequence early in the movie follows his passionate but fast-paced and funny sexual foreplay from one bed to another with assorted voluptuous sex partners, sometimes more than one at a time.


Occasional swearing and sexual language (mostly in Spanish with English subtitles) includes words/phrases like "f--k," "s--t," "bulls--t," "crap," "hell," "damn," "boobs," "knocks her up," "busting my balls," "oh God" (as an exclamation), etc. Also fart jokes/sounds.


Aero Costa Rica, Johnny Bravo.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

An adult character smokes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Instructions Not Included -- which is primarily in Spanish with English subtitles, though some scenes are played in English -- is a blend of very funny and very sad. Viewers can expect everything from sexual farce and antic slapstick comedy (a stuntman falling from great heights and repeatedly slamming into a brick wall) to the profound love between a father and his little girl. Before he knows he has a daughter, the main character is a confirmed ladies' man; his sexual dalliances are comic and without nudity, though there's a smattering of cleavage, a few male "butt" shots, and lots of rolling around in bed. There are also fart jokes, a dog peeing on camera, occasional swearing ("f--k," "bulls--t," "damn"), and sexual references ("knocks her up," "damn cheap condoms," "you did it with your sister?"). A central character is a lesbian involved in a mature, loving relationship. Fear is a recurring theme (a little boy's fear of threatening wolves is played in flashback throughout; he's also shown at the mercy of a scorpion and being thrown over a cliff, though no one is severely injured during these episodes). Spoiler alert: During the final sequence, the movie takes a tragic turn that may be too disturbing for some, with the death of a major character.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byRoger Lett November 25, 2019

No Instructions Needed!

This is one of our very favorite movies. It doesn't begin like our type of movie, and it has a lot of subtitles in the beginning, but oh, does it evolve i... Continue reading
Parent of a 11, 14, and 17-year-old Written byHendo H. U April 12, 2019
Teen, 15 years old Written byJflores14 December 2, 2014

Sweet tale of a fathers love for his daughter

I had to watch in my Spanish class and ended up loving it. It has some iffy content, but I enjoyed it. Teens should like it and adults will like it more and app... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written byM16 September 24, 2013

Go watch this movie. You won't regret it!

This movie was really well made I absolutely loved it. There's many reasons why I found this moving simply amazing and here are a few. 1.) It shows how eve... Continue reading

What's the story?

In INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED (No se Aceptan Devoluciones), Valentin (Eugenio Derbez, a well-loved Mexican TV star who also directs) is a world class womanizer and beach bum living in Acapulco. Everything changes in an instant when Julie (Jessica Lindsey), an old fling, appears on his doorstep with an adorable baby girl. "Maggie" is his baby, Julie explains just before she walks away. Stunned, Valentin is totally unprepared and desperate, so he tracks Julie to Hollywood. But she's gone when he and Maggie get there; instead, in a chance moment of mistaken identity, Valentin is recruited as a movie stuntman. Years pass; the besotted dad, now a well-established movie professional, has created a magical world for his young daughter. Maggie (Loreto Peralta), now 7, is his sidekick, manager, and best friend. But soon all is at risk when Julie reappears and decides that she wants Maggie with her in New York City. A radical change of tone accompanies the profound crises that follow.

Is it any good?

This is an unorthodox, fanciful portrayal of the loving bond between father and daughter with moments of inspired animation and slapstick action that are combined with real human consequence. Valentin is both a clown and a tragic hero.

Though Instructions Not Included  is too long, was made on a relatively small budget, and has some unabashedly melodramatic scenes, it's clear that Eugenio Derbez made a film that he hopes will bring forth a strong emotional response. For the most part, he succeeds. But families should know that (spoiler alert!) fear, separation, and death all play a part in Valentin's story. Despite the wonderful performances from father and daughter, it may simply be too scary or too sad for some viewers.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can discuss how facing fear is an important theme in Instructions Not Included. Did watching any of it trigger thoughts of your own fears? How can you best deal with things that you're afraid of?

  • Some films are thought to "manipulate the audience's feelings." What does this mean? What do you think the filmmakers want viewers to take away from this particular movie?

  • How does the movie portray sex/sexual relationships? There's a lot of sexual humor; does that affect the impact of the content?

  • This movie is a combination of many different film types/genres. What are they? What elements did you like best? What will you remember most?

Movie details

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