A silly but funny fish-out-of-water comedy
The Valet is a remake of a 2006 French comedy and while I have no idea how good the original was, I am pleased to say that the new incarnation is pleasantly enjoyable.
Eugenio Derbez and Samara Weaving are the two main players in this charming romp, and they have great chemistry as they interact and play off one another.
Derbez is Antonio, a Mexican parking attendant who now lives with his mother after being dumped by his unsatisfied wife. And Weaving is Olivia, a megastar whose new film based on the life of Amelia Earheart is about to be released. She is having an affair with Vincent, an arrogant billionaire, but while they do their best to keep their secret trysts away from the paparazzi’s cameras, the two are snapped together having an argument in front of her waiting car.
Luckily, Antonio, who has just barreled into the car with his bicycle, is also caught in the picture, and he is asked to take on the role of Olivia’s boyfriend to protect Vincent’s marriage and Olivia’s upcoming movie release.
Antonio agrees and the bulk of the movie is then taken up with their pretend relationship, their cultural differences, and their eventual bonding together. As a romantic comedy, there is nothing particularly new here, as many movies within this genre have played with fish out of water themes and odd-couple pairings. But as the movie manages to include themes of gentrification and class disparity into the mix, The Valet has a little more depth than those by-the-numbers comedies that fail to make any kind of social impact.
As you would expect, Antonio is more than a little overawed when he has to attend movie premieres with his so-called girlfriend. He is told to keep talking to a minimum so as not to let slip their real relationship but this isn’t easy when he is constantly surrounded by snapping photographers and intruding journalists.
Antonio isn’t the only one who finds himself out of his depth as Olivia faces a few changes in her life too. Not only does she have to get along with Antonion’s large Mexican family but she also has to eat plentiful helpings of his mother’s food. As an actress who is trying to stay in shape for her next movie role, whose diet is largely made up of small meal portions and champagne, this is quite a culinary shift that she has to undertake.
Still, adapt they do and there is much comic mileage from the predicaments they find themselves in. Some of the jokes in the movie are rather obvious, such as a running gag about Antonio being mistaken for a servant when he is with Olivia at upmarket gatherings. But to the writer’s credit, most of these gags never get dull, so the movie manages to entertain, even when things take a turn for the predictable.
It’s the performances that really make this movie work. Weaving has already proven herself to be a talented comedic actress in such movies as Ready Or Not and The Babysitter and she is reliably funny here. Derbez is an able comedy performer too and he is far better in The Valet than he was in Overboard and How To Be A Latin Lover, two unfunny ‘comedies’ that were vastly unworthy of his talents.
While there are all kinds of comic hijinks here – the couple’s first dinner date together is a particular highlight – this doesn’t rely on broad laughs and scenes of slapstick to maintain interest. It manages to engage with its humanizing story and messages of tolerance. So while the film is certainly funny, it also manages to be warm and tender within its storytelling. The scene where Olivia bonds with Antonio’s mother is quite sweet, for example, as is the moment when Antonio is given an unexpected gift from an unlikely source.
With an almost 2-hour running time, the film is a little bloated. It never gets boring but some of the scenes could have done with a little extra trimming. If the film had fewer side characters, more focus could have been placed on the main protagonists, whose central relationship is what gives this movie its heart. That’s not to say the surrounding players aren’t interesting but they tend to drown out the main storyline with their respective subplots.
These are minor criticisms though as the movie is never a chore to sit through. Sure, it’s a little formulaic but thanks to the central performances and the witty script, this can be forgiven.
The Valet is streaming on Disney+ in the UK and Hulu in the US and is worth catching if you want to watch something that is mostly light and uncomplicated. You probably won’t remember much about it afterwards but you should still have a good time in the moment with this often silly but heart-warming film.
Read More: The Valet Ending Explained
Verdict - 7/10