"Instructions Not Included" is one of those rare and richly rewarding unexpected DVD finds that will leave you feeling joyously lucky to have experienced it and instantly wanting to share it with everyone. This mostly subtitled Spanish and English language film from Mexican star and director Eugenio Derbez (who also contributed to the screenplay) brings us an unforgettable must-see comedy-drama that rivals anything coming out of Hollywood and is hands down one of the very best movies of 2013.
Derbez plays an extremely active Acapulcan playboy named Valentin. His life instantly changes when a past sexual conquest named Julie (Jessica Lindsey) leaves Maggie, her baby girl, at his door. Valentin and Maggie pursue Julie to Los Angeles but instead find Frank (a delightfully wacky Daniel Raymont), a wild schlock film director. A dire spontaneous act gets Valentin hired as a stuntman and his life changes again as he learns to be a father and tries to stay healthy in his new job.
Smart and endearing Loreto Peralta beautifully plays the elementary school age Maggie as the story jumps ahead to see her living in a fantasy world contrived by the overprotective Valentin. Doing his best to make her happy, Valentin keeps Maggie in a playhouse and fabricates wild stories about her world adventurer mother. Despite his efforts, he can only stave off reality for so long.
"Instructions Not Included" never goes where you might expect and has a wealth of honest surprises. There are brilliantly comic moments that will have you heartily laughing out loud and drama that will definitely move you to tears. Derbez proves himself equally deft in front of and behind the camera. His richly realized Valentin is charmingly irresponsible, hopelessly goofy and ultimately a very real and warm human being. That human quality is the real beauty of this film. Every character and portrayal rings with sincerity and they are presented without judgement. Their story will not readily leave you nor will you want it to.