Review by Sean Boelman
The Lionsgate subsidiary Pantelion has established themselves as the authority in Spanish-language comedies, having released several of the highest-grossing fan favorites from Latin American countries. Their first live-action film since the COVID-19 pandemic, ¿Y Cómo Es El? (Backseat Driver) isn’t going to break out beyond the studio’s core audience, but will please those in that niche.
A remake of the Korean comedy Driving With My Wife’s Lover, the movie follows a man who decides to fake a work trip to confront the taxi driver who is having an affair with his wife. It blends the beats of two of the most common tropes in this type of Latin American comedy — the love triangle and the buddy comedy — in a way that is predictable but enjoyable.
The breakneck pacing of the genre is both a blessing and a curse. The jokes start early and keep rolling, but there is little breathing room for us to connect with the characters. The most successful films of the genre are able to straddle the line of being goofy but also heartfelt, but this struggles on the latter side of things.
These movies aren’t known for being grounded, and so if anyone goes in expecting this to be anything less than ridiculous, they are looking for the wrong thing. But at a certain point, the absurdity becomes too much. Adding more and more subplots to the film causes contrivance after contrivance, and it eventually turns into outright stupidity.
Still, time after time, there is something charming about this blissfully ignorant style of comedy. This combination of slapstick gags and jokes that are out-of-touch to the point of feeling like they are from a movie made two decades ago isn’t something that we would see come out of an American movie.
Indeed, many American audiences aren’t used to seeing how widely the comedy styles vary between countries, and this probably isn’t a good entry point for the uninitiated. Although the humor is fittingly broad, the love triangle is underdeveloped and lacks the emotional core that would have made this work.
The film features Omar Chaparro, who is one of the most popular actors in Mexico, but his role is surprisingly unrobust. The character he’s playing is very derpy to be the person that the protagonist’s wife is cheating with, but his charm really comes through. Mauricio Ochmann’s performance is very straight-faced, but his dynamic with Chaparro works.
¿Y Cómo Es El? is entertaining enough for what it is, offering pretty much what any fan of Latin American romantic comedies would expect. It’s derivative, and not as funny as one would like, but has enough charm to it to make it worth watching.
¿Y Cómo Es El? hits theaters on April 22.