Starring: Joey Diedo, Elizabeth Rodriguez, Kelly McGillis
Directed by: Fro Rojas (debut)
Written by: Joey Diedo (“Downtown: A Street Tale”) and Brian Herskowitz (TV’s “Hercules: The Legendary Journeys”)
Director Fro Rojas’s family dramedy “Tio Papi” – about a middle-aged Puerto Rican who is suddenly forced to care for his six nieces and nephews when their parents are killed in a car accident – is a disaster from start to finish. There’s no nice way of laying it down.
Enjoying his time as bachelor, Uncle Ray Ray (Joey Diedo, also credited as a co-writer) is living the good life. Liked by everyone but his neighbor/ex-girlfriend Cheeky (Elizabeth Rodriguez), he always manages to smooth his way out of bad situations (like always being late on his rent). When his sister’s kids get left at his front door one morning by rigid social worker Elizabeth Warden (Kelly McGillis), Ray Ray is forced to have to make some difficult decisions.
After much struggle, Uncle Ray Ray seeks assistance from Cheeky in figuring out how to care for the six kids. He soon realizes he would rather keep them together as a family instead of having the state find separate homes for each of them, but not before the youngest ones are taken away and placed in foster care.
It’s evident screenwriters Joey Dedio and Brian Herskowitz tried to take a stab at writing a heartfelt dramedy centering around the transformation of Uncle Ray Ray from a bachelor into a responsible parent, but to their demise, every storyline was rushed and underdeveloped, leaving zero chance for laughter and tears and for the audience to get any sense of growth from his character. Performances from the cast were certainly nothing to rave about as well. With choppy dialogue and phony acting, you’ll be left wondering how much longer till the end.
The third act is a culmination of cliche and unrealistic events that push everything over the edge. Trying to get his kids back, Uncle Ray Ray finds himself unable to pay his lawyer, but with the flick of a wand, it seems, he comes across a random briefcase filled with money which eventually lands him a front page story in the newspaper when he decides to be the good Samaritan and turn it in. By the time the final scene rolls around, you are drained with disbelief in how bad this is. The only thought you can fathom is, “Why in the heck is Uncle Ray Ray’s landlord in every scene?!”