From the beaches of Cancún to the islands of Puerto Rico, it’s safe to say that well-off Americans love traveling — traveling to luxurious resorts in areas upheld by working-class communities, that is. Apple TV’s hit comedy “Acapulco” understands the issues that often come with mass tourism, while taking a comedic spin that highlights oft-underrepresented voices.
Loosely based on the 2017 film “How to be a Latin Lover,” the show is told from a “Princess Bride”-esque perspective: Maximo (Eugenio Derbez, “The Book of Life”), a successful business mogul, reveals his rags-to-riches story to his young nephew, Hugo (Raphael Alejandro, “Once Upon a Time”), as the audience watches it all unfold simultaneously. This method of storytelling contributes to the impact of the show immensely. Just like little Hugo, we know that Maximo is going to make it big, we’re just not sure how. As Maximo reveals more and more of his life story from his deluxe mansion in Southern California, we get to know him as he once was — young, scrappy and desperate to make ends meet for his struggling family. As Young Maximo (Enrique Arrizon, “April’s Daughter”) ponders how to afford his mother’s much-needed eye surgery, the perfect opportunity falls into his lap. A luxury resort, Las Colinas, is hiring — thus, our story begins.
Maximo is clearly the heart of the show, a likable protagonist you can’t help but root for. However, the show thrives not only on its protagonist’s likability, but on the comedy and talent of its ensemble. Said ensemble features various figures from Maximo’s personal and professional lives, including his strict mother Nora (Vanessa Bauche, “Guerra de Vecinos”), rebellious sister Sara (Regina Reynoso, “You’ve Got This”), eccentric best friend Memo (Fernando Carsa, debut) and beautiful yet unavailable work-crush, Julia (Camila Perez, “The Drummer”). While a good portion of the show pursues Maximo-centric plotlines, the ensemble provides depth and heart that simply wouldn’t be there if the plot only followed our protagonist. Between Sara’s struggle to come out to her strict Catholic mother, Memo’s forbidden romance with his boss’s niece or his mentor Don Pablo’s (Damián Alcázar, “Hell”) complicated relationship with his estranged son, the series simply refuses to create a boring character.
With one exception, that is — front desk worker and apple of Maximo’s eye, Julia. My opinion on Julia’s character has nothing to do with Perez’s portrayal of the role, but rather with the way she’s written. Unfortunately, Julia’s affinity for classic literature and aspiration to design clothing simply isn’t enough to distract from her obvious lack of substance. Julia is also at the center of a love triangle between Maximo and Chad (Chord Overstreet, “Royalties”), her current boyfriend and the son of Las Colinas’s owner. However, her inability to decide between the two men is more frustrating than endearing, making you wonder if Julia is truly a character in the show, or simply a plot point used to propel Maximo’s story forward.
“Acapulco” also focuses heavily on the reason Las Colinas exists in the first place: American mass tourism. The resort’s owner, C-list actress to A-list hôtelière Diane, is a complicated character who doesn’t necessarily take on a hero or villain role in the story. She objectively does what is profitable, whether that decision supports her employees or not. Although Diane often comes through for Maximo and his coworkers when they’ve impressed her, she is not above exploiting her Latinx workers’ cultures to make the feel of the resort more “exotic” for the guests. Maximo also deals with the American tourists, accepting their ridiculous requests and selling them “triple platinum proposal packages” in the name of supporting his family.
Overall, “Acapulco” is an exciting and hilarious piece of television that brings (mostly) interesting characters to the table, reminding us what “feel-good comedy” truly means. While the show’s ensemble cast and situational plot lines make up its foundation, the playful touches “Acapulco” adds to its episodes, such as bright on-screen visuals and Spanglish renditions of ’80s pop hits, are the icing on an already stunning cake. So as the weather turns this fall season and you find yourself missing the summer sunshine, the story of the beachside resort is only a few clicks away.
Daily Arts Contributor Olivia Tarling can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.