“The Valet” is a remake of the French film “La Doublure,” but has been thoroughly Americanized. The romantic comedy aspect of the story has survived but the remake emphasizes, for better and for worse, the heartwarming aspects of what quickly becomes an increasingly scattershot story of friendship, family values and immigrant life in America.
“Ready or Not’s” Samara Weaving plays Olivia, a spoiled movie star who has a tendency to date married men, including richie-rich guy Vincent Royce (Max Greenfield). When the paparazzi catch a photo of the two of them having a lover’s spat on the steps of a tony hotel, Olivia fears the negative publicity will tank the box office for her upcoming film.
Luckily for Olivia, someone else also appears in the picture. Just as the camera snapped the damning photo, hard-working valet Antonio (Eugenio Derbez) crashed his bicycle into a parked car and was caught on film. “I never thought I’d get hit by a parked car,” he says.
With her career and reputation as a role model hanging in the balance, Olivia agrees when an assistant suggests, “What if we find the other guy in the photo and you pretend to be a couple?”
Antonio is incredulous when approached with the scheme, but agrees to the deal and a large pay cheque. Soon he is on the arm of one of the most famous women in the world, photographed at hot spots and appearing on TV. “What’s wrong with him?” asks his mother. “Why is he making that dumb face?”
But what begins as a sham for publicity, deepens as Olivia learns about Antonio and his family. “He’s decent and kind,” she says. “That is surprisingly hard to find.”
When “The Valet” isn’t trying to pluck at your heartstrings, the fun cast, featuring “CODA’s” Derbez and Weaving, find the funny in the one joke, culture-shock premise.
Derbez, whose work in “Instructions Not Included” honed his blend of heartfelt and humorous, knows how to get a laugh but also deepens Antonio’s working-class immigrant story. “You can’t imagine how hard it is when people hand me their keys,” says Antonio, “and don’t look me in the eye.” His character takes a man who felt invisible and puts the spotlight on him, a vulnerable, hardworking guy who has often been overlooked.
Weaving plays up the over-the-top Hollywood stereotype of a Hollywood actor whose is not was wholesome as her squeaky-clean image would suggest. In the beginning she’s willing to exploit Antonio for her own purposes but as the story progresses Weaving does a good job at making Olivia’s inevitable character arc from morally-challenged movie star to an accepting and understanding real person, believable.
By the time the end credits roll, ”The Valet” reveals itself to be not so much a romantic comedy as a morality tale of a sort about family values, being a good person and treating others with respect. Add in a few laughs and you have a farce that, while predictable, succeeds because of the talented cast.