Whether or not you’re familiar with superpowered Mexican actor Eugenio Derbez is immaterial. You’ll either be psyched to see him in the opening frames of Apple TV+’s Acapulco, or you’ll shortly fall in love with him. He has that elusive but always-coveted puckish joker quality that makes people like him. Call it charisma. Call it Q-score. Call it whatever you like but allow it to wash over you as you watch Acapulco, a show that feels somehow both unique and familiar at the same time.
Derbez plays Máximo Gallardo, a man so wealthy he hits golden golf balls at the yachts parked off the coast of his cliffside Malibu estate and shrugs when he hits his own, choosing to point out how life has its little ups and downs. Acapulco’s structure is tethered to Máximo’s life story (or his version, anyway) as he imparts it to his 14-year-old, wise-cracking, spoiled-rotten nephew Hugo, played by Raphael Alejandro.
Derbez’s Máximo is an animated, sometimes self-aggrandizing, sometimes self-effacing, full-of-baloney storyteller. Hugo is a mouthy little teenage shit, but you still like him. Máximo’s setup and narration of how he got here, with all this money, serves as the narrative backbone of the show.
But the real draw is when we actually go back to the 1980s, to a simpler time in Acapulco, where the young Máximo is played by Enrique Arrizon.
Arrizon’s young Máximo dreams of working at the fancy tourist resort of Las Colinas. The name itself is shrouded in awe. A bastion of celebrities and millionaires gated off from the general Mexican public. Máximo only knows of one local who ever made it in there, the general manager Don Pablo, (Damián Alcázar) and he dreams of following in his footsteps.
In short order, through a combination of gritty determination and advantageous happenstance, Máximo gets a job at Las Colinas — from Don Pablo himself — which opens like a playground of the gods in front of his teenage eyes. From there it’s just a standard coming of age piece, but one where, instead of employing the “hopelessly outdated foreigner” trope used by so many shows over the years as a way to poke fun at non-white characters, the quirky outsiders are the debauched and often gleefully amoral American visitors.
Narrated by the older Máximo, we watch as the younger Máximo learns the ins and outs of the hospitality industry in the 80s. In that way it’s similar to Amazon’s Red Oaks, which is also a surprisingly good show that you should add to your list if you haven’t seen it.
Arrizon, like Derbez, is so naturally likeable that you just fall in. You root for him before you even realize that you’re doing it. With him, an ensemble cast shines. From best friend Memo (Fernando Carsa), sister Sara (Regina Reynoso), front desk worker and love interest Julia (Camila Perez), and Máximo’s boss, the dopey American Chad (Chord Overstreet), the story unfolds predictably but enjoyably. While the overarching cadence and tone of the comedy is very standard and methodical, that serves as a strength of the show, rather than a weakness. Everyone nails their punchlines. Everyone has solid timing. What you see is what you get and the show doesn’t aspire to more and frankly doesn’t need to.
It ultimately feels like a dalliance. It feels like a jaunt. A whiff of fresh flowers. The first time you hear the beach before you see it. The first ray of sunshine that breaks through the clouds. It’s a pleasantry that you didn’t even know you were hoping for, and Arrizon, a relative newcomer who has fewer IMDB credits than the actor who plays the 14-year-old Hugo, is the magnetic personality that holds it all together.
And these two? Singing 80s hits in Spanish while wearing the greatest costumes and hairstyles ever? Worth the price of admission alone.
Created by Austin Winsberg, Eduardo Cisneros, and Jason Shuman, Acapulco is a damn good show. American audiences are ready, (over-ready frankly), to see real characters from other countries, and characters that are treated with the same comedy brush as their American counterparts would be. The dialogue switches nimbly between English and Spanish, offering subtitling when needed, and the use of the language in various locations and the stigma around that, is a character unto itself.
Acapulco doesn’t whitewash and it doesn’t pull punches. Ridiculous characters are appropriately ridiculous, no matter what color their skin is. Máximo’s mother is, for example, just as neurotic and flawed as her American counterpart might be. The cast of primarily Mexican characters is diverse and interesting. Máximo’s best friend Memo, whom you’ll adore, is a hysterical mess in the best way, while Don Pablo is calculating and serious. Love interest Julia is well read and ambitious while laundy-room boss Lupé, (Regina Orozco) has the kind of gruff, Ron Swanson energy that will make you look forward to every scene she graces.
There are so many good shows out there to watch but not many that can hit the sweet spot of dramedy in the way that Acapulco does. Out of the gates it’s a delight. You can catch new episodes weekly on Fridays on Apple TV+.