A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that La Boda de Valentina is a Spanish-language romantic comedy starring Marimar Vega. Content-wise, it's on par with most mainstream romantic comedies. In other words, you can expect some swearing in the English subtitles ("s--t," "a--hole," etc.), as well as some ethnic slurs and mildly risqué references. But there's no explicit sex or even particularly suggestive situations; only kissing is shown on-screen. Scenes in which characters fight and drink too much are played for laughs, and dishonesty causes the characters a lot of problems.
What's the story?
In LA BODA DE VALENTINA, Valentina (Marimar Vega) has just accepted the proposal of her American boyfriend, Jason (Ryan Carnes). Then she learns that her corrupt, politically connected family in Mexico City has pulled a fast one: They've filed papers marrying her off without her consent in order to help her father win an election. Without explaining anything to Jason, Valentina rushes south to execute a divorce from her "husband," who turns out to be her old flame, Angel (Omar Chaparro). Valentina's father asks her to delay the divorce until after the election, so when Jason shows up unexpectedly, there's some maneuvering to do.
Is it any good?
This is a standard, Hollywood-style romcom that will likely be funnier to viewers who are more immersed in Mexican culture. There are plenty of references to current Mexican songs, celebrities, politicians, and political parties which, if intended as jokes, fall flat if you don't know what or who they are. La Boda de Valentina ("Valentina's Wedding") is barely about the wedding, so don't expect Bridesmaids-style hi-jinks here. The movie does rely on the romcom cliché of inexplicable dishonesty to create an uncomfortable situation, but otherwise it divides its focus among the ridiculous male bonding between Jason and Angel, the manipulations of political enemies, and some fish-out-of-water comedy involving Jason as a bumbling gringo. Which is a shame, because Vega's performance as Valentina is skillful. She's funny, gifted with expressive eyes, and appears sharp. She even handles the dramatic moments well. But there's so much going on, with so little context (for whom are we supposed to root, Angel or Jason? and who is Valentina, exactly?), that the story seems to move on from her about halfway through, leaving her ultimate decision between suitors to come from nowhere. Worst, her lies to her fiancé aren't only reprehensible; they're totally unnecessary. And that's just some of her character's thoughtless behavior.
To a non-Mexican audience, the lack of context for the political squabbling will likely make the conflicts seem unmoored. There seems to be some Trump-era jab -- especially the central controversy over the candidate's "assets statement" and a crack that "Africa, Haiti -- it's all the same" -- but nothing is solid. Valentina's family is rich, corrupt, and bungling; their opposition is hateful and all similar-looking, but what are the true differences between the two factions? Valentina's family members are unquestionably dishonest opportunists, but in one scene, her father turns out to be concerned with people's welfare, as well as a competent problem solver. Yet his family lives in engorged excess, and his candidacy is based on one lie after another. Despite Vega's absence, the film is actually at its best in the Jason-Angel scenes. Their foolish machismo is good for some laughs, especially during a night of drunken escapades. Carnes' Jason comes across as a romantic, but little else. Chaparro's Angel is given more to work with -- he's an old family friend who has a romantic history with Valentina and is a community-organizing activist who's Mr. Cool around the ladies. Unfortunately, the film fails to engage because of its scattershot focus and lack of romantic context. It's hard to care who's going to score that movie-closing dance at La Boda de Valentina.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the role that lying plays in La Boda de Valentina -- and other romantic comedies. Is the lying necessary? What does it say about the characters involved? Would it be acceptable in real life?
Did you predict with whom Valentina would end up? What were the cinematic clues?
There's a political element to the film, but much of it seems wrapped up in local political relationships that viewers outside Mexico might not understand. Does the film seem to have a political/social point of view you can describe? Did you predict the outcome of the film's election?
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