My wife and I were driving down the Sunset Strip when we were taken aback by one of the area’s numerous gargantuan billboards. To our horror, leering over us was the mugging face of comedian George Lopez. The enormous ad promoted his talk show or an upcoming movie or something else low-class that he’s involved in.
My wife looked at the billboard and said, “I don’t know if anyone has ever been so successful with such little talent.”
I was going to nominate Madonna for that distinct honor, but we have agreed to disagree about her. Still, my wife had a point about Lopez.
He is not particularly funny. Yes, I’ve seen worse attempts at humor: Pauly Shore, late-era Chevy Chase, and the movie “Revenge of the Nerds II” spring to mind. But the appeal of this Mexican American comic has always mystified me.
As if to compound my low opinion of his abilities, the very next day, I read this disturbing fact: New Line is planning a live-action/CG feature film of Speedy Gonzalez. The fleet-footed rodent will be voiced by none other than George Lopez.
Lopez and his wife, Ann, are producing the movie, which indicates that this misguided project isn’t just a work-for-hire but some kind of twisted labor of love.
I’ve written before about the love-hate relationship that Hispanics have with Speedy Gonzalez. Among other things, the fact that he is quick and clever is outweighed by the inescapable symbolism that he is a thieving rat.
Ann Lopez acknowledges Speedy’s problematic image. She says the movie will be modernized so that the character is “not the Speedy of the 1950s – the racist Speedy.” She further adds that the film will have “the Latino seal of approval.”
For some reason, I’m not filled with confidence by her assertions. But perhaps we should just give the filmmakers the benefit of the doubt. Maybe the movie will be charming and funny and poignant. Perhaps it will provide an insightful look at Hispanic culture. Hell, let’s just predict that it will be brilliant and win twenty-seven Oscars.
After all, how can it go wrong with the guy who voiced “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” onboard?