Comedy and drama are powerful genres and when they are intertwined, they can become something even more meaningful. Sometimes cultural barriers can make a film a little more difficult to understand, too. In a Latino movie like Instructions Not Included, over half of the film is in Spanish, and leaving a fair amount of English dialogue in between. The director and star of the film, Eugenio Derbez, is a loved comedian on regular spanish television. Here he plays Valentín, a young playboy living on the beach houses of Mexico. An old fling stops by only to quickly leave what seems to be his baby, and then races off, leaving Valentín to take care of her. Years go by and Valentín has made a life for them two, until the birth mother decides to show up out of the blue and poses a threat to his tiny family.
It’s a comedy/melodrama, and the language barrier here can have a slight impact on the viewer. When acting out a comedy of any sort, it’s going to sound different, and be taken differently, in diverse languages. When I watched this movie with the subtitles, I can hear the comedy in one language, and understand it in English words. When understanding the humor difference in two cultures, language is the most noticeable thing. What is subtitled in English may be taken literally, rather than figuratively, as it was intended to be in Spanish context.
An example of Mexican comedy that could never be understood in English is Cantinflas. I grew up basically watching this comedian with my grandfather. Cantinflas was of Mexican heritage and I am actually not too familiar with the culture (I was raised in my mother’s family, of Uruguayan heritage). Although Cantinflas made maybe a couple movies that had English, his natural humor only sparked in Spanish. His use of Spanish puns and eccentric, lively, and hyperactive use of dialogue made it only uniquely funny in its own culture. When watching Instructions Not Included, we are still able to understand what it’s communicating, even if you don’t understand the words spoken. We find out that in many ways, we can all just relate to the humor. Some correlations are still there. In many ways, but not always, the humor in two different cultures can vary. In this film, the humor was what made me care about the characters and their life. The amount of care I invested was enough to shed a tear at the end. No spoilers here, but there were some good laughs, too. Overall, this was a pleasant, okay little movie.