Tio Papi

Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Tio Papi Movie Poster Image
Bittersweet family comedy involves parental loss.
  • PG
  • 2013
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

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

Educational Value

This isn't an educational film, but kids who watch it might learn a few words of Spanish and pick up some stuff about a predominantly Latino neighborhood that's not often depicted in New York City movies.

Positive Messages

The movie's overarching message is that it's not money or space that kids need but rather a loving adult ready to face the challenges and hiccups of child-rearing. The movie also stresses the importance of keeping siblings together. The way Ray Ray's friends come together to help him shows how "it takes a village" to raise kids and foster community.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite his initial reluctance, Ray Ray rises to the occasion of raising his nieces and nephews and learns to love them and the responsibility of caring for them. Ray Ray's friends all chip in and help him, particularly his ex-girlfriend, Cheeky.

Violence & Scariness

Kids sensitive to parental death or adoption/foster care may be disturbed by how the children's parents die in a car accident (they're shown in the car looking at each other and kissing quickly, and then there's a white screen and a crash noise), and the six kids lose their home and are immediately put in the care of an uncle who doesn't want to keep them (at first). There's a scary scene in which young Nico wanders away from his birthday party and ends up lost in the neighborhood. Ray Ray and the rest of the party goers go looking for him on the streets. When the two youngest kids are removed from Ray Ray's care, everyone starts crying.

Sexy Stuff

Sixteen-year-old Vanessa flirts with a guy at her new high school and eventually kisses him.


Occasional insult language (mostly between the siblings) includes "stupid," "dummy," "you're just a child," "baby," etc.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Adults dance in a nightclub where people discuss going to get a drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Tio Papi is a family comedy about a bachelor uncle who ends up becoming the guardian of his six young nieces and nephews after their parents' tragic death in a car accident (there are crash noises, but no scenes of the actual incident/immediate aftermath). Families with children sensitive to parental death, foster care, or adoption themes should know that those issues form the basis of the plot. There are a couple of mild insults like "stupid" and "dumb," a little teenage flirting, and a scary scene in which a young boy wanders off into the streets of New York alone (he's found safe), but otherwise there's nothing objectionable in the story, which is ultimately about the power of family and community.

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What's the story?

Bachelor Ray Ray Dominguez (Joey Dedio) lives in New York City's Puerto Rican neighborhood of Washington Heights, but he's saving up for his dream: moving to Miami. Then, one night the unthinkable happens -- Ray Ray's sister, Daniela, and her husband are killed in a car accident, leaving their six children (ages 6 to 16) in his care. Since Ray Ray lives in a modest one-bedroom apartment, he asks his assigned city social worker (Kelly McGillis) to find a foster home where all the kids can be placed together. But eventually Ray Ray gets attached to the idea of raising his nieces and nephews ... just as social services is ready to remove the kids from his care.

Is it any good?

The film injects humor into a difficult situation, while tugging at the heartstrings. There's nothing original about the story of a group of orphans who land in the unsuspecting care of an ill-suited guardian, but comedian Dedio (the titular TIO PAPI -- "uncle daddy") and Cuban-American director Fro Rojas infuse the familiar plot with a distinctly urban, Latin flavor. Dedio is a believably happy, working-class bachelor who rents a one-bedroom apartment in the barrio of Upper Manhattan and saves what little he makes in hopes of making his big move south.

When his sister and brother-in-law die, leaving all six of their kids orphaned, it's tragicomic to see Ray Ray attempt to fit the half dozen children -- including two teenagers, twin tweens, and two little ones -- into his daily routine (one of them has to sleep in a plastic hamper). McGillis and the state play the antagonists in the story, who find Ray Ray unfit as a guardian, but, like any feel-good "orphan" story, this Tio finds a way to be a Papi at all costs.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Tio Papi's messages about family and community. How does Ray Ray's circle of friends help him and the kids? Who makes up your family's "village"?

  • This is a comedy that stems from a tragedy. Why do you think there are so many stories about orphans?

  • How is Ray Ray and the kids' Latino culture expressed in the movie? What did you learn about Latinos from the movie?

Movie details

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