Director Ian Edelman’s Puerto Ricans in Paris unfolds much like the high-concept (and lowbrow) fantasy promised by its title, with two NYPD detectives sent to the City of Lights to track down a stolen handbag belonging to a high-end fashion designer. Some of the film’s humor smartly revolves not simply around fish-out-of-water antics, but the socio-economic leap entailed in their red-carpet treatment in Paris, complete with luxurious hotel accommodations and a seeming blank check for clothing and booze while the men investigate the case. In New York, Luis (Luis Guzmán) and Eddie (Edgar Garcia) are working-class cops with modest cultural taste, as evidenced by Luis’s plan to take his girlfriend to a Bruno Mars concert at Madison Square Garden (“I got front row tickets…well, front row of the upper deck”). It’s a funny line because it homes in on Luis’s class-consciousness without overselling the point.
Unfortunately, it’s one of few organic bits of comedy in Edelman’s hacky culture-clash tale, which mostly relies on placing the duo into precarious undercover scenarios (a bit where they dress as Arab sheikhs to fool a suspected thief is especially tiresome in its broad stereotyping). By not configuring the film’s humor around a consistent theme, Edelman perpetuates a long-term relationship ethos that lauds monogamy and fidelity while casting aspersions on any lifestyle not built around the family unit and, by extension, an opportunistic grab at supposedly blue-collar values.
The filmmakers underwrite each cop’s personal, romantic relationship to clichéd ends, so that Luis is a lifetime bachelor who’s reluctant to finally make a commitment to his longtime girlfriend (Rosario Dawson in a thankless role), and Eddie struggles to keep his sexless marriage to Gloria (Rosie Perez) afloat. While Eddie is at least marginally fleshed out through his persistent deliberation of marital fidelity, Luis resembles an actual person only insofar as he appears to have flesh and blood, but he’s really just a comedic device for uttering abhorrent lines such as, to a woman in a nightclub: “I would eat your croissant all night long.” That Edelman feigns interest in resolving Luis’s relationship woes in the final scenes is the film’s most risible gesture.
Edelman credibly establishes a nominal sexual tension between Eddie and Colette (Alice Taglioni), the victimized fashion designer, only to turn her into a device for testing Eddie’s fidelity to his wife. There’s a hollow, even bad-faith morality at work when Eddie rebuffs Colette’s advances after a night of partying, especially considering how Edelman previously shoots scenes of binge-drinking and hands-in-the-air dancing as if he were making one of producer Pitbull’s Bud Light commercials. With a laughable mystery premise that drifts out of view for long stretches of time, dubious characterizations, and pandering narrative motivations, the film simply limps to predetermined truths that hypocritically advocate the maintenance of placid family values.