TUCSON, Ariz. — The fish-out-of-water, opposites-attract romantic comedy "Book of Love" should have been shelved.
Sam Claflin plays Henry, a struggling British author whose humdrum novel catches fire in Mexico, thanks to a saucy translation by Maria (Veronica Echegui), which takes wild liberties with his work, transforming it into an over-the-top, telenovela-style sizzler.
Neither writer respects the other, and they are forced into a book tour across Mexico together. You can see where this is going, right?
Throughout a cavalcade of unlikely cutesy scenarios, fumbled romantic encounters, and misunderstandings, Henry and Maria take part in a long-winded tango, ever-so-gradually creeping toward the hand of fate that squeezes them together.
While Claflin and Echegui turn in competent performances and manage to generate believable chemistry, the script is deadweight, standing in the way of their magnetism.
The rom-com, which releases Feb. 4 on Prime Video, struggles to pump out the laughs and romance as its rickety story unravels.
The movie works best as a travelogue, sweeping you across Mexico to show off stunning vistas and cultural flair. The joyous shots punch up the bland, predictable story. The film could have used a sassy, Wanda Sykes/Janeane Garofalo-style side character to shift the comedic burden away from the leads.
Director Analeine Cal y Mayor shows an affinity for visuals but struggles to keep the narrative flowing.
Some intensive editing may have improved the film's fate. At a cumbersome 105 minutes, it sputters and stumbles rather than gliding along with like better films of its ilk.
As it stands, "Book of Love" could have used a Maria-style rewrite.
RATING: 2 stars out of 4.