It’s quite common for movies and television shows to use a framing device as an easy way to move a story forward or to easily explain certain plot points. Whilst it can be done well (‘The Princess Bride’, anyone?), it can often feel like lazy storytelling. After watching Acapulco’s first episode, it was clear that the show’s wraparound is every bit as important and entertaining as the main storyline.
Loosely based on the 2017 film ‘How To Be a Latin Lover’, ‘Acapulco’ sees Máximo Gallardo (Eugenio Derbez) impart his wisdom on to his nephew Hugo (Raphael Alejandro), who visits his uncle on his birthday and learns of how he made his fortune. I’ll be honest, when I heard that elements of the show were based on this film, it didn’t exactly make me excited to check it out. Thankfully, the names of these two characters and the fact that they are played by the same two actors from the film appear to be where the similarities end.
The pilot episode opens on a shot of a grand, stunning villa and cuts to Máximo, who is clutching at a mysterious piece of paper as he looks out over the ocean. After Hugo arrives, expecting his uncle to whisk him away on a private jet for a birthday shopping spree and his hopes are dashed, we quickly jump back in time to 1984. This is where the bulk of the show takes place and where we meet younger Máximo, this time played by Enrique Arrizon.
From here, the story follows young Máximo as he lands his dream job of working at Las Colinas - the hottest resort in Acapulco. Máximo has dreamed of working at Las Colinas since he was a child and is certain that securing a job there will allow him to take care of his family and finally allow him to pay for his mother to have much-needed eye surgery. After meeting Manager Don Pablo (Damián Alcázar) and finding out that he must strictly only speak in English around the hotel guests, Máximo quickly learns that there is more to life at the resort than meets the eye and that working there is going to be much more complicated that he ever anticipated. This comes following a warning from his mother, who is less than thrilled about her son getting the job, that Las Colinas changes people for the worse. The show strikes a perfect balance of being a wholesome, coming-of-age story and an intriguing mystery as the question of just how Máximo got to where he is in present day and how working as the hotel changed him always lingers throughout.
‘Acapulco’ really begins to shine as we are introduced to the wonderful cast of supporting characters and their relationships. There are a lot of characters here, both working at the resort and in Máximo’s own family. His mother and sister (Vanessa Bauche and Regina Reynoso) have an excellent on-screen dynamic and his best friend Memo (Fernando Carsa) is effortlessly charming and often steals any scene he’s in. The resort itself is full of colourful, interesting characters including the aforementioned Don Pablo, hotel owner Diane who is more concerned about her own status than anything else, dim-witted general manager Chad and Julia, who works at the front desk and quickly becomes the object of Máximo’s affections. There are other supporting characters too that round out the cast and bring the hotel setting to life. Despite the number of people we meet, none of them are ever treated as one-dimensional and we very quickly become invested in each person’s storyline - as told through the eyes of Máximo. The nuanced relationships between the characters are the lifeblood of the show and make for some incredibly touching and heartfelt moments as the season progresses.
The show does a great job of creating a living, breathing world that, much like the experience of the hotel guests, you never want to leave. That’s not to say; however, that the present day portion of the story is lacking in any way. In fact, it’s every bit as interesting. Eugenio Derbez, who recently appeared in Apple TV+ feature film ‘CODA’, is fantastic as older Máximo and his relationship with his nephew is the source of plenty of laughs. The story being told in this way also allows the writers to have some fun with the 80s timeline of the story as older Máximo sometimes takes liberties with his telling of certain events, only to be called out by Hugo. The show does a great job of fleshing out present day Máximo in addition to his 1980s self. Both are instantly likeable and charming, but he is clearly a very different person in present day and often appears much more contemplative in comparison to his younger self. Whenever we jump forward to present day, it’s also never clear what exactly has happened to the various characters that we grow to love from the 1980s. This is very much deliberate and lends a good deal of mystery and an added layer of depth to an already interesting story. It’s one of the show’s most intriguing elements and one that I can’t wait to learn more about.
Not only does it present a fun and engaging story, ‘Acapulco’ looks and sounds fantastic in doing so. The 1984 timeline is warm and welcoming and the brilliant soundtrack will have you smiling throughout. It really helps convey the fun, care-free time that the guests at Las Colinas experience during their stay. The present day scenes are a little more muted, perhaps signalling how Máximo’s life has changed since then.
Whilst ‘Acapulco’ is very much a comedy and provides plenty of laughs, it also doesn’t shy away from getting a bit heavier where appropriate. Themes of love, loss, betrayal and finding your true identity are tackled often and lurk beneath the show’s colourful aesthetic similar to the hidden debauchery that hides behind Las Colinas’ vibrant exterior. Quite often throughout the season, Máximo battles with himself over whether to do the right thing in certain situations or do what is best for him in order to get ahead at the resort and pursue his dreams of financial success and winning the heart of Julia. This conflict makes for some of the show’s most interesting moments as his love for Julia grows stronger. It adds depth to Máximo’s character as allure of Las Colinas begins to take hold, just as his mother warned him it would. We know that he’s achieved financial success in the future and become rich beyond his wildest dreams - but at what cost? The show smartly holds back in showing its hand too early, leaving enough breadcrumbs to keep us coming back for more.
There’s so much to love about ‘Acapulco’. Apple TV+ is quickly becoming the home of the best comedies on television and this show only helps to cement that fact. It offers plenty of feel-good, heart-warming vibes, laugh-out-loud moments and memorable characters that make it a must-watch. The show doesn’t coast by on its charm; however, and there’s plenty of drama, emotional twists and turns and overarching mystery that make it so much more rich and complex. There’s also just the right amount of 80s nostalgia peppered throughout without ever feeling overdone. As was the case with ‘Ted Lasso’ when it was released, ‘Acapulco’ should be the next comedy that you tell all of your friends about. As summer ends and the dark evenings begin to roll in, this really is the perfect show to jump into. I didn’t want my time at Las Colinas to end and I can’t wait to return again soon.
'Acapulco' premieres Friday October 8th on Apple TV+ with the first two episodes. A new episode premieres every subsequent Friday.
Apple TV+ is priced at $4.99 per month or $49.99 annually after a free 7-day trial.