Acapulco review – Apple’s Spanglish comedy is a feelgood fiesta

Picking up the cheerful TV baton from Ted Lasso, this bilingual series offers a wholesome holiday to a candy-coloured 80s Mexico filled with possibility and soapy drama

Acapulco is the latest feelgood comedy-drama from Apple TV+, who appear to have looked at the steady success of Ted Lasso and decided wholesome is the way to go. The 10-episode series is loosely inspired by the 2017 film How to Be a Latin Lover, with its star Eugenio Derbez playing the role of Máximo Gallardo, a wealthy Mexican businessman living a life of luxury in present-day Malibu. But Máximo’s beginnings were humble, as he recounts to his young nephew Hugo, passing on the life lessons he learned as a young man.

From there, the action largely unfolds in flashback form. In 1984, young Máximo gets the job of his dreams at the Las Colinas luxury resort in Acapulco. This is no dark White Lotus-esque satire on wealth and privilege, however. While there are hints that the owners and boss are not quite as innocent as our bright-eyed protagonist, Acapulco is mostly about hard-working people working hard to get ahead. Máximo wants to buy his mother new glasses so she can see again, and lift his family – including capitalism-hating, metal-loving sister Sara – out of poverty.

At the resort, the staff are forbidden from speaking Spanish, so much of the show is in English. However, when the Mexican characters are at home, it switches to Spanish with ease. Bilingualism is no longer the barrier to mainstream success that it once might have been: witness the ease with which people now have the “dubbed or subtitles?” conversation about a runaway smash like Squid Game.

The 80s setting is a bright, bold visual treat. It is as if they took one look at the ultimate pink-soaked film The Florida Project and decided it was too dowdy. There are pinks and yellows everywhere, a popping palette that reflects the series’ cheerful outlook on life, love and the accrual of wealth. The period allows for some gentle jokes about obsolete technology but, mostly, you get the sense that it is set then and shot in that way because it looks really good. Say what you like about Apple shows, but there is no indication that they ever skimp on the budget.

A place in the sun … Jessica Collins as resort owner Diane in Acapulco.
A place in the sun … Jessica Collins as resort owner Diane in Acapulco. Photograph: Cate Cameron/Apple TV+

Young Máximo’s puppyish enthusiasm sees him recruited as a by local mogul Don Pablo Bonilla after a sentimental exchange over a matchbook. However, those sports cars owned by older Máximo suggest that he won’t be selling iced teas by the water for long. He is quick to learn and eager to impress, and will do anything it takes to excel at his job. That is, until he comes across a moral quandary or two. Should he, for instance, exploit gullible people in order to make money for himself? Again, this is not The White Lotus, so it’s safe to say that he learns his lesson, ie how to be good and rich.

Based on the first two episodes (which have been released together, with the others to follow weekly) it is a deeply sweet proposition that also lays the foundation for solid, soapy melodrama. Máximo falls for the beautiful Julia, who loves reading female authors and watching Grease. (An affection for Virginia Woolf now appears to be a requisite trait for all Cool Hot Girl characters.) Julia, however, is dating Chad, a blow-up, tiny-short-wearing Ken doll of a man. To make matters worse, his mother Diane – a former daytime soap star – owns the resort.

Drama aside, the overall effect is gentle, sunny and laidback, and the show wears its easy charm well. Acapulco doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but Las Colinas is a most pleasant place to spend some time.

Contributor

Rebecca Nicholson

The GuardianTramp

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