Back in 2003, before the rest of the United States discovered her amazing talents via Modern Family, I was already a huge fan of the lovely Sofia Vergara. And during this year she had her first major co-starring role in a feature film, Chasing Papi, which could loosely be described as a “romantic comedy”. The film tells the story of Tomas (played by Eduardo Verastegui), a successful marketing executive from L.A., who has three “girlfriends’ in different states, whom he visits when he travels. There is Cici (played by Vergara), a boisterous waitress in Florida, Lorena (played by Roselyn Sanchez), a studious lawyer in Illinois, and Patricia (Jaci Velasquez), a sheltered debutant in New York. The stress of juggling these three long distance relationships causes Tomas to go to the doctor, who prescribes some pills for his anxiety and when, by sheer coincidence all three women show up announced at Tomas’ house in L.A. at the same time, Tomas passes out.
The three women are all shocked and outraged to discover that Tomas has been cheating on them, but none of them quite want to give him up just yet. So they decide to wait until he wakes up in order to see which one he chooses. However, things get complicated when a female FBI agent shows up at the house and the three women think she’s a 4th woman Tomas was having an affair with, so they sneak his unconscious body away to a hotel to get away from her. At the hotel, a Miss Latin America contest is being prepared, and Lorena gets mistaken for Miss Puerto Rico, with the other two ladies assumed to be her assistants, so they get a room for free. Then there’s a subplot that involves Cici needing to deliver a car which, unbeknownst to her, was supposed to have stolen money in it (hence why the FBI agent was following her), to some criminals, who then threaten all the women when the money is missing, and then the FBI agent kidnaps Tomas (whose still unconscious). Hilarity ensues.
Along the way, there is a running theme that each of the women has personal issues to resolves. Cici has dreams of being an entertainer, Jaci struggles to gain independence from her wealthy parents and live her own life, while Lorena has focused so much on her work that she never has any fun. During the course of their adventures together, each of the women comes to terms with themselves, and develop a friendship between them. It’s all played out very naturally, and done well thanks to the skills of the actresses. A few other stand-outs are Joy Enriquez as the no-nonsense FBI agent, D.L. Hughley as one of the criminals, and Paul Rodriguez in a small role as the beauty pageant organizer.
But ultimate kudos must be given to Eduardo Verastegui as Tomas. Although he spends the bulk of the film missing or pretending to be unconscious, in the establishing scenes he manages to project a sense of sincerity that makes him seem like a well-meaning fellow who just got in over his head, as opposed to simply being a lecherous womanizer. This is key, because it helps us sympathize with the female characters, as we can understand why they’d fall for him and want him back, instead of just making them seem like victims who were duped.
What’s also great about this film is that it doesn’t just fall back on simplistic racial stereotypes, in order to get an easy laugh from the audience, but rather gives us a well-rounded cast of characters who just happened to be predominantly Latino/Hispanic. It’s a fun time for all.
TWO THUMBS UP!