Tio Papi Is an Underwritten Mess of Blind Optimism
Cinema deserves rich stories and positive portrayals of Latino life, but director Fro Roja's cheapjack family dramedy—about a middle-aged Washington Heights bachelor unequipped to suddenly care for six children—doesn't try to be anything more than a soft-serve pull of treacly pandering. Writer and co-producer Joey Dedio stars as rockabilly-haired, party-hearty wage slave Ray Ray Dominguez, an affable but underwritten mess of blind optimism and self-righteousness, who must now play "Uncle Daddy" to his dead sister's six-to-16-year-olds. Cue the phony affirmational bonding and cheesy montage of doing chores together (one of the kids has to sleep in the laundry basket, how heartbreakingly cute!), smothered by a bombastically tacky salsa soundtrack that's more a Nuyorican cliché than a boost of cultural vibrancy. Kelly McGillis only turns up at the most inappropriate moments as a by-the-book social worker, The Wire's Frankie Faison is Ray Ray's building superintendent and buddy who feels bad about having to collect unpaid rent, and Orange is the New Black's Elizabeth Rodriguez plays the long-suffering ex-girlfriend who still holds a tiny Bic flame for our struggling everyman. Fine actors or not, there's not a rough edge or third dimension to any of their roles in Tio Papi. Dios mío!
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