Release Date: October 4, 2013 (limited)
Studio: Pantelion Films (Liongsate)
Director: Pitipol Ybarra
Screenwriter: Oscar Torres, Issa Lopez, Gabriel Ripstein, Georgina Riedel
Starring: Laura Ramsey, Jaime Camil, Omar Chaparro, Tom Arnold, Stockard Channing
Genre: Comedy, Romance
MPAA Rating: PG (for language and brief smoking)
Official Website: PullingStringsmovie.com
“Pulling Strings” is a bilingual comedy starring Jamie Camil. Alejandro (Jaime Camil) and his loyal best friend Canicas (Omar Chaparro) are hardworking mariachi singers looking for fame in Mexico City. More than just a mariachi, Alejandro has a second full time job – he’s a single dad. When Alejandro tries to secure a visa for his young daughter to visit her grandparents in the U.S. Alejandro’s request is flatly denied by a young embassy worker, Rachel (Laura Ramsey.) Later that evening, Alejandro and Canicas run into Rachel while playing a gig – which turns out to be a celebration of her promotion to a post in London. Alejandro seizes the coincidental encounter as a chance to change her mind on his rejected visa, and with Canicas by his side, they whisk her into an unforgettable adventure. And, while he gets busy pulling strings for a visa, it turns out the strings of his heart are pulled too.
Having successfully demonstrated with the recent box-office smash Instructions Not Included that the Hispanic audience is largely underserved, Pantelion Films has come up with another winner in Pulling Strings, a slight but sweet effort that serves as an excellent showcase for its Mexican star, Jaime Camil. The effortlessly charismatic performer delivers a winning performance in this romantic comedy that somehow manages to work despite its endless contrivances.
The singer/actor plays Alejandro, a mariachi singer struggling to raise his young daughter (Renata Ybarra) on his own. Deciding that she would be better off being raised by her grandparents in Arizona, he applies for a visa to take her there, only to be brusquely rejected by the embassy employee, Rachel (Laura Ramsey), who can barely be bothered to look up from his paperwork.
When Rachel later shows up at a party at which he and his band are performing, Alejandro doesn’t bother to hide his resentment. But when he later spots her drunkenly sleeping at a bus stop after indulging in one too many shots, he takes pity on her and takes her home with him to sleep it off on his sofa.
Waking up with a hangover the next morning, the aghast Rachel is mostly concerned with finding her laptop, which contains vital embassy documents. Thinking that if he gets close to her she might reconsider his case, he hides it and proceeds to go through an elaborate charade of helping her recover it with the aid of his loyal friend (Omar Chaparro).
The ensuing complications — the computer soon goes missing for real when Alejandro’s apartment is broken into by the crooks to whom he owes money — are both too predictable and drawn-out. Naturally, the previously buttoned-up Rachel, who’s about to be transferred to London, suddenly realizes the ample charms of both Mexico City and the handsome mariachi singer with an angelic voice.
That voice is unveiled on so many occasions — including an impromptu serenade by the band to a lovelorn man’s girlfriend — that the film nearly qualifies as a musical. But it’s understandable considering its lead performer’s musical gifts.
It all goes on for too long, with the third act machinations, including a manic chase through an airport when Alejandro tries to prevent Rachel from going through with her plans, feeling all too familiar. Such familiar American presences as Tom Arnold as Rachel’s solicitous boss and Stockard Channing as her mother are largely wasted, with the latter’s dramatic scenes not exactly meshing with the surrounding frothiness. But these are small quibbles about this otherwise winning vehicle that should provide its male star easy entry to Hollywood films.