Instructions Not Included
What parents need to know
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.
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?
Instructions Not Included is an unorthodox film. A beautiful, fanciful portrayal of the loving bond between father and daughter and moments of inspired animation and slapstick action are combined with weighty episodes of real human consequence. Valentin is both a clown and a tragic hero.
Though it's 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.
Families can talk 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?