Torquemada had nothing on this Spanish torture chamber of a movie that, in a mere eighty minutes, inflicts what feels like a lifetime of pain. “Chasing Papi” is supposed to be a romantic comedy but proves to be neither; just be sure you don’t catch it. As a perceptive character remarks at one point, in a particularly apt line, “I’ve seen a lot, but this is a real doozy.”
The plot is a variant of the old “sailor with a girl in every port” scenario. The title character is Tomas Fuentes (Eduardo Verastegui), an L.A. advertising exec and traveling Lothario whose girlfriend of the moment depends on geography. In Miami it’s a sultry cocktail waitress (Sofia Vegara), in Chicago a bookish lawyer (Roselyn Sanchez), and in New York a pampered upper- class princess (Jaci Velasquez). Trouble ensues when they all coincidentally travel to California to surprise him at the same time. Naturally they find that he’s been two (or three)-timing them; and the discovery leads to all sort of wacky adventures. Before long the trio is hauling a conked- out “Papi” about the city in a car that’s supposed to be delivered to a couple of dumbbell mobsters (D.L. Hughley and Freddy Rodriguez) with a trunkfull of loot; the money gets misplaced and the gals are chased and threatened by the hoods; a leather-clad FBI agent (Lisa Vidal) shows up to collect the dough; and the three would-be Lucy Ricardos get involved in a Miss Latina beauty pageant and a big Hispanic festival (as dancers) to boot. Under the sledgehammer direction of TV veteran but big-screen neophyte Linda Mendoza the picture is unrelentingly frantic and garish, but flat-footed and crass–in the fashion of the very worst Spanish-language television–and what’s most contemptible is that it treats the three female leads like jiggly Charos but also wants you to respect them; after demeaning the women for seventy minutes or so, it spends the final five trying to convince us that acting like absolute morons has somehow been an empowering experience for them.
The cast might be attractive under other circumstances, but here they’re acutely irritating. All the femme leads come across like screeching airheads, and Verasteguiis absurdly handsome but so wooden that you’d swear he was carved out of oak. (His line readings suggest that he’s speaking them phonetically, too.) Paul Rodriguez shows up to demean himself as a prissy pageant official.
For some reason Forest Whitaker is one of the people who produced this disaster. He’d be well advised to stay in front of the camera in the future, no matter how hard good acting jobs are to come by. As for the audience, it can thank Verastegui for at least one thing: his character is unconscious during much of the picture, thereby offering a salutary demonstration of the state which any unfortunate viewer might best assume to get through “Chasing Papi” with a minimum of suffering.