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Film / Instructions Not Included

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Instructions Not Included is a 2013 Mexican comedy-drama film that was co-written, directed by, and starring Eugenio Derbez. It was released on August 30, 2013.

Derbez plays Valentin, a seemingly fearless playboy living in Acapulco who encounters a former fling who leaves him with a child whom she claims is his daughter. While trying to give the baby back to her mother, Valentin ends up going to Los Angeles, becomes a Hollywood stuntman, and spends the next six years raising the child while not fully grasping the concept of fatherhood.


This film includes examples of:

  • Ascended Fridge Horror: A few people voice their concerns about Valentin being a single parent of a young child and having an extremely dangerous job. If he were to have died on the job, there would not have been anyone else to take care of his daughter since he had no family in the country. He quits his job as a stuntman to keep Maggie.
  • Bait-and-Switch: Valentin is hinted to have some sort of illness, with only a short time left to live. It's later revealed that Maggie is the one who is ill, though she has no idea.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: Renee, Julie's girlfriend. She started off very kind when she first meets Valentin, but gradually becomes rather arrogant and crude to him when Julie attempts to take custody of Maggie. She evenly bluntly comments on how Valentin isn't the father after he wins the court case. It really goes hand to hand near the end when she and Julie try to get Frank to reveal where Valentin took Maggie to, and Renee pulls the racist card, insulting Valentin for being Mexican. She softens up when she finds out that Maggie has a terminal illness.
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  • Bittersweet Ending: Maggie dies from an illness, but she lived out her dream of jumping off the cliff into the ocean with Valentin. Valentin himself has grown as a person thanks to Maggie.
  • Brick Joke: Maggie tells the landlord about their neighbor who keeps asking Valentin to help unclog her drain and the landlord takes it at face value, charging Valentin for the damage after the landlord takes apart the pipes and finds there is no problem with them.
  • Call-Back: In the beginning of the movie, Julie asks for money to go pay the cab driver, but doesn't come back. Years later, she doesn't have money for a cab and asks Valentin to lend her some again. There is Lampshade Hanging.
    • Valentin kept forgetting Maggie's name and someone else mentions her name sounds like the name of a food. When she is about to crawl into the pool, he still forgets and tries to call out her name, instead shouting random names of foods until he remembers.
    • In spanish, he remembers she has the name of a brand of sauce, so Valentín starts shouting random sauce brands.
  • Calling the Old Man Out/What the Hell, Hero?: Maggie is furious when she finds out Valentin has been lying to her about her mother the whole time and yells at him.
  • Career Versus Family: Julie leaves Maggie with Valentin to study law in New York.
  • Children Raise You: Maggie for Valentin.
  • Cruel to Be Kind: Valentin writes letters to Maggie, pretending that they are from her mother with excuses as to why she is away. He also uses the one photo he has of Julie to edit her image into other photos and tells her that they are divorced. When Maggie kept asking about her mother, he decided to hire an actress to play Julie, though wasn't able to go through with the plan. When asked why he lied, he says he couldn't bear to tell Maggie that her mother didn't love her enough to stick around.
  • Daddy DNA Test
  • Died in Your Arms Tonight: Maggie.
  • Dramedy
  • Exact Words: Julie says that she wants Maggie to meet "someone". Maggie and Valentin are surprised to see that Julie's partner is a woman.
  • Flashback: Some scenes of Valentin's childhood are shown.
  • Get Out!: Maggie, when Valentin tries to apologize to her after she finds out the truth about the letters.
  • Girl Posse: The group of girls that bully Maggie for being "weird".
  • He Cleans Up Nicely: Valentin gains a neater appearance, including a shorter haircut, after the time skip.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Valentin and Julie had a fling and ended up with a child neither of them wanted.
  • Law of Inverse Paternity: Valentin was revealed not to be Maggie's biological father, which allowed Julie to get custody.
  • Missing Mom: Maggie's mother abandons her as an infant, but comes back seven years later.
  • Motif: The wolf that Valentin sees every time he gets scared.
  • Oblivious Adoption: Though it isn't revealed to anyone until the Daddy DNA Test near the end.
  • Papa Wolf: Valentin, who is afraid of heights, jumped down 10 stories to save his daughter. When her mother comes back, he is critical of her and protective of Maggie, who he doesn't want to get hurt.
    • There is also a scene in which Maggie lies to a director, saying that Valentin agreed to jump at a greater height that was originally agreed upon so that he could show off in front of Julie and Renee. When the director finds out about it and starts yelling at Maggie, Valentin says there was just a misunderstanding and agrees to go with it so the director would stop.
  • Parents as People: Valentin had a falling out with his father and never reconciled with his father before his death because he didn't agree with the way he raised him. It isn't until he had to raise his own child that he learned to understand his father's mistakes. Valentin himself, as he gets criticized for some of the things he does when raising Maggie, but it's obvious how much he cares for her and that is trying his best. He commits to making changes such as taking a less dangerous job and learning English.
  • Parent with New Paramour: When Maggi learns that Julie is in a relationship, she doesn't want to meet her (though she initially assumed it was a man) and bragged that her father was better. When she met Renee, she didn't seem to like her and tries to get Valentin to show off.
  • The Reveal: It appears as though it's Valentin who has a terminal disease, when it was really Maggie.
    • Additionally, Valentin is not Maggie's biological father.
  • Rule of Pool: Maggie crawls into a hotel pool and Valentin jumps in to save her.
  • Running Gag:
    • The sexy neighbor who keeps inviting Valentin to "fix her drain".
    • The senile landlord who keeps reminding Valentin to pay the elevator maintenance bill (which he does multiple times).
  • Really Gets Around: Valentin in the beginning of the movie. Its implied Julie as well, since Valentin caught an STD from her. It foreshadows Valentin not being Maggie's biological father.
  • Secret-Keeper: Frank.
  • Film Within a Film: The Aztec Man series, which stars Johnny Depp with Valentin as his Stunt Double.
  • Shout-Out: Valentin's father is named Juan Bravo, but was known as "Johnny Bravo". He even tells Maggie a story about Johnny Bravo as though he's a legend, using a toy of said character as a visual stand-in.
  • Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism: Eugenio Derbez received lot of heat in Mexico for doing a Hollywood-style comedy film, rather than a tragedy, a thriller, or a drama, and from a Mexican point of view, it completely deviates from the actual kind of movies Mexican studios are doing, and as such, it gives an "erroneous" image of the country, albeit the movie itself still sticks with the Mexican status quo somewhat by giving an Bittersweet Ending. The difference here is the ending happens due to a completely out-of-control situation, rather than something created just because the main character is Mexican.
    • Not really; all the criticism he got was because in Mexico, such films are mostly considered vanity projects (he writes, directs, produces and acts in the film) and they usually are very crappy; the film is a dramedy and "serious" - or at least, more serious than his past work for the past 20 or so years - and is sorts of him playing against type. To add insult to injury, he decided to market the movie more outside of the country so it's not "made for Mexicans", and unusually for a Mexican production he didn't hire or invite any of his past collaborators from his TV series, which is tantamount to treason. The reality of the situation is he looked forward to making a movie on the "American-style" precisely because he has been stuck in playing silly slapstick characters for the past 20 or so years, he knew the movie wouldn't do well in Mexico (though it ultimately DID) because the audience is used to seeing him as Ludovico Peluche and not as Eugenio Derbez. He's stuck in the same place Jim Carrey was in the nineties, or more precisely, he's in his Ace Ventura phase and trying to get into his Truman Show phase.
  • STD Immunity: Averted. Valentin remembers Julie having left him with a "gift".
  • Stunt Double: In-Universe example. Valentin was offered this job after a director saw him jump into a pool from a balcony 10 stories high.
  • Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Maggie gets the whole Death by Newbery Medal treatment, even passing away in a spot in Acapulco with a marvelous sight of the ocean while held in Valentin's arms.
  • Translator Buddy: Maggie translates for Valentin whenever he speaks to someone who only speaks English.
  • Wham Line:
    • Frank keeps telling Valentin to tell "the truth", which is that he fears that every day with this daughter will be his last, as she is suffering from a terminal condition.
    • The Reveal that Julie requested a paternity test, which showed that Valentin was not Maggie's biological father.
  • What Happened to the Mouse??: We never do see what happened to Renee after she and Julie find out the truth about Maggie having an illness. We can assume they broke up, especially after Renee pulled the racist card on Valentin.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Valentin to Julie for abandoning Maggie.