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'Loco' could use some spice

August 15, 2003|Kevin Crust | Times Staff Writer

The romantic comedy "Loco Love," a culture clash in which Beverly Hills snobbery meets East L.A. family values, might have been offensive with its stereotypical, one-dimensional characters and Spanglish-laden "jokes" if it wasn't so utterly bland. With about as much flavor as iceberg lettuce, the movie really doesn't offer enough to get worked up about.

Roy Werner stars as Donald Chandler, a successful restaurateur who loses his marriage and business when his scheming wife, Barbara (Margaret Scarborough), and her mother (Barbara Eden) -- who is also his financial backer -- decide to trade Donald in for a Mercedes-Benz dealer. Meanwhile, the Chandlers' gardener, Miguel Sanchez (Gerardo Mejia), wins the lottery and offers to step in as the new business partner with two stipulations. Donald must agree to marry Miguel's difficult, green card-deprived sister, Catalina (Laura Elena Harring, who made quite an impression in David Lynch's "Mulholland Dr.") and allow the extended Sanchez family to move into his large house.

The residents of the house soon include Catalina, Miguel, Miguel's wife, Juanita, and their two children, plus Ansiana -- their aunt and self-proclaimed bruja, or witch -- but it's predictability that's the guest of honor here. Donald teaches the Sanchezes how to shop on Rodeo Drive and they teach him the meaning of familia.

The new restaurant is a success and though Donald and Catalina mix like oil and water at home, they begin to have feelings for one another at work. Miguel, however, demands the business arrangement remain strictly that and quickly extinguishes any sparks that arise between the two.

Harring and Werner demonstrate a modicum of chemistry in scenes in which they alternate flirting and fighting, but the unsurprising plot and lifeless dialogue sink any chance they might have had to rise above the material. The movie, by first-time director Bryan Lewis and screenwriter Steven P. Baer, plays like a pilot for a second-rate, English-language telenovela with any available laughs being lost in the translation.


'Loco Love'

MPAA rating: PG for thematic elements, sensuality and language

Times guidelines: Perfectly chaste

Roy Werner...Donald

Laura Elena Harring...Catalina

Gerardo Mejia...Miguel

Margaret Scarborough...Barbara

A Barnholtz Entertainment Inc. and Pathfinder Pictures presentation, in association with Three Springs Entertainment and Enigma Entertainment. Producer-director Bryan Lewis. Executive producers Bryan Lewis, Charlie Bravo. Screenplay by Steven P. Baer. Cinematographer Thaddeus Wadleigh. Editor Sherril Schlesinger. Costume designer Carol Nolan. Music Jon McCullum. Production designer Robin Kirk. Running time: 1 hour, 34 minutes.

In selected theaters.

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