‘Hazlo Como Hombre’ handles a coming-out with comic flair

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The ribald comedy “Hazlo Como Hombre” opens with a mock advisory warning that its protagonist displays behavior that should not be repeated at home.

And what exactly is that behavior? It seems that Raúl (Mauricio Ochmann) may only be in his mid-30s, but he is an old-school machista. He brags about cheating on his pregnant wife. He throws around derogatory slurs in everyday conversation, the kind that would get you dragged into a human resources office. And he’s convinced that homosexuality is a sickness that can be cured with a little hard work and dedication.

Raúl has two best friends from his days in school. They play on the same soccer team, enjoy superhero movies and battle each other during online Omen of Sorrow games. Eduardo (Humberto Busto) is sly and wisecracking while Santiago (Alfonso Dosal) is in the midst of preparing for his wedding to Nati (Aislinn Derbez), Raúl’s tightly wound sister.

Raúl suspects that Eduardo could be gay; after all, he owns three cats and works as a barber at a hair salon that caters to a hipster clientele. But one day after a soccer match, it is Santiago who comes out to his friends. He’s been wrestling with his feelings for some time. He’s met someone on Grindr and it feels right. Eduardo is supportive while Raúl is shocked. Eduardo also has to explain to Raúl what Grindr is: “When did you suddenly become the gay Wikipedia?” Raúl snaps.

The bright and energetic “Hazlo Como Hombre,” which translates to “Do It Like a Man,” shows how Santiago’s announcement shakes up the trio and those around them. The wedding is quickly called off and Nati heads to therapy. She also tries a desperately lurid tactic to win him back, to no avail. Derbez is a scream as the neurotic, willful Nati; she constantly barks “Enfocate!” — or “Focus!” — at Santiago, managing to turn one word into comic gold.

Raúl, guided by his own therapist (Luis Pablo Román, very funny), learns that he will go through different stages, such as grief and denial, as he mourns the loss of the friendship he once knew. He also seeks to blame someone — “Was it Father Ayala at school?” he asks — and suddenly starts devouring pray-away-the-gay books.

Santiago has his own issues. He embarks on a relationship with a quirky celebrity chef (Ariel Levy). Eduardo man-crushes on him but Raúl is competitive, resulting in an awkward blow-up at an upscale book-launch party. Santiago learns that coming to terms with his sexuality doesn’t necessarily equate to a trouble-free love life.

Eli Roth cohort Nicolás López co-wrote the screenplay and directs the film, which has emerged as a box-office smash in Mexico. You can understand its popularity: It is high-spirited, buoyant and full of laughs. The movie also has some nicely affecting moments that deal with male friendship and loneliness, and López is deft enough to capably navigate the moves into deeper emotional waters.

The cast is outstanding. Dosal, who headlined this year’s “3 Idiotas,” is terrific, bringing warmth and believability to Santiago. Ochmann is equally strong, as he avoids turning Raúl into some kind of cartoon villain. The character actually becomes increasingly sympathetic as his life crumbles around him and he’s struck by frequent crying fits.

The screenplay walks a tricky path, as a fair portion of the humor is built around Raúl’s neanderthal barbs and viewpoints. But the character is handled in much the same way as Norman Lear presented Archie Bunker in the ’70s: His observations are meant to be viewed with disdain, not approval. The filmmakers heavily hit on this point, even throwing in a disclaimer during the end credits to emphasize their LGBTQ-friendly objectives.

Randy Cordova, USA TODAY Network

★★★

Pantelion Films presents a film directed by Nicolás López and written by López and Guillermo Amoedo. Rated R (for sexual content throughout). In Spanish with English subtitles. Running time: 109 minutes. Now showing at local theaters.


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