Instructions Not Included Blu-ray Review
Young Valentín grew up with a father who would prepare him for life’s fears by putting tarantulas on his body, locking him in a shed with wolves and tossing him off a cliff into frigid waters far below. But nothing could prep him for what he calls “the mother of all fears”: commitment.
In the decades that followed, Valentín (Eugenio Derbez, who, in addition to acting and directing, is also a Formula Three racecar driver) amassed quite a list of sexual partners. One morning, he wakes up next to two beautiful women…and then a blonde he doesn’t recognize named Julie (Jessica Lindsey, NOW YOU SEE ME) comes knocking on his door. “I was your endless love,” she says, undoubtedly quoting a line Valentín likely gave every woman before and after her. In her arm is a baby girl that, of course, is his. Valentín would probably prefer the wolves.
Having no idea how to raise a child (because, hey, instructions aren’t included), Valentín sets out for Los Angeles to find Julie so he can return Maggie. Of course, we know that since the poster features a cleaned up Valentín and a six-year-old Maggie (newcomer Loreto Peralta) that the girl will be something of a saving grace for her old man, who in turn will recognize what a gift his child has been.
INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED is also directed by Derbez (who co-wrote the screenplay with Guillermo Ríos and Leticia López Margalli), who apparently doesn’t seem to mind that variations of this plot have been being recycled for decades. This take, though, may be one of the more contrived: how convenient the way Valentín finds out where Julie is located, and that he leaps from the balcony of the hotel of a producer who just happens to be looking for a new stuntman. Such laziness, and that we can see so much coming from miles away, makes the movie both implausible and difficult to fully enjoy. Also hurting the movie is the change of tone from lighthearted coming-of-maturity tale to something much more serious courtesy of the sudden arrival of illness and reemergence of Julie.
Still, there is a certain amount of charm to the movie (very little of which has to do with the plot). INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED is amusing and pleasant primarily in how well Derbez and Peralta interact—even the early montage of Valentín and Maggie playing and learning with each other succeeds in putting a smile on the viewer’s face. Derbez, who has been appearing in movies for over 30 years now, is a strong actor and has a presence that makes it easy to see why he’s so popular in his native Mexico. Peralta, too, in her debut, is so cute and mature that she very well could be worth keeping an eye on.
INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED has many issues—notably its occasionally nonsensical plot turns and entire overdramatic third act—but, thanks almost exclusively to both Derbez and Peralta, is still an overall likeable movie.
INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 1.78:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. This Blu-ray of INSTRUCTIONS NOT INCLUDED boasts a vibrant transfer that captures all of the colors and tones of the characters, locales and costumes in the movie.
Audio: Spanish 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. Subtitles in English and Spanish. The audio transfer is also very good, with clear dialogue and music cues.
Audio commentary by Eugenio Derbez: This is a bit of a frustrating track for those that aren’t bilingual, as Derbez switches between Spanish and English randomly. While he does dish out a number of production tidbits, fans may get fed up with the approach.