Enrique Arrizon in Acapulco (Photos: Apple TV+)

By Matt Brunson

★★★ (out of four)
CREATED BY Eduardo Cisneros, Jason Shuman & Austin Winsberg,
STARS Eugenio Derbez, Enrique Arrizon

Is Eugenio Derbez the Gene Hackman of modern times?

Hackman was known for appearing in movies left and right for a lengthy stretch of his career (like fellow workaholic Michael Caine, particularly during the 1980s), but Derbez seems to be outpacing everyone. In the last five years alone, he has appeared in 20 film and television productions, including the 2021 Best Picture Oscar winner CODA. He can currently be seen on the Apple TV+ series Acapulco, which premiered October 8, 2021, and kicks off its second season later this month (October 21, to be exact).

Last year’s pilot episode set up the premise quite nicely. In the present day, the extremely wealthy Maximo Gallardo (Derbez) tells his young nephew Hugo (Raphael Alejandro) the story of his humble beginnings and how he acquired his immense fortune. This framing device soon gives way to the story proper, a flashback set in Acapulco in 1984. The young Maximo (Enrique Arrizon) wants nothing more than to work at the swanky resort Las Colinas, and he and his best buddy Memo (Fernando Carsa, basically playing Ned Leeds from the Tom Holland Spidey flicks) unexpectedly are chosen among hundreds of applicants. Memo gains his entry by embellishing his resume — his job as “president of advertising for a major nighttime entertainment company” translates to “handing out flyers for a strip club” — but is disappointed when he’s assigned to work in the bowels of the laundry department. Maximo, on the other hand, charms the head of operations (Damián Alcázar) and lands a plum assignment: pool boy to the rich and famous, meaning lots of sunshine and lots of tips.

Eugenio Derbez in Acapulco

As expected, the show mainly follows young Maximo on the job at the resort, where he falls for the lovely receptionist Julia (Camila Perez) and hopes to steer her away from her boyfriend Chad (Chord Overstreet), the resort’s manager and, not incidentally, son of its owner, former soap opera queen Diane Davies (Jessica Collins). But there are also some side trips to his humble home, where he lives with his worried mother (Vanessa Bauche) and his progressive sister (Regina Reynoso). The majority of the characters are Hispanic, but this isn’t the sort of show where there are a couple of lines in Spanish and then it morphs into English for the comfort of American viewers. Instead, the show is almost as much a Spanish-language production as an English-language one, with subtitles on hand to help out.

Some of the scenarios sound like vintage TV Guide listings for episodes of The Love Boat or Fantasy Island — a guest puts the moves on Julia, wackiness ensues at a Christmas party, etc. — but what makes the show work is that it’s sweet without ever being cloying, and smart without ever being smarmy. Derbez’s welcome presence is always felt via an occasional breakaway scene to the modern-day set-up or through his narration during the flashback sequences, and the personable Arrizon is up to the task of portraying the young Maximo as an ofttimes naïve but perpetually eager lad. With this interesting and affable character anchoring both the then and now, Acapulco maintains its good vibrations throughout.

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