A Million to Juan
|A Million to Juan|
|Directed by||Paul Rodriguez|
|Produced by||Executive Producers:|
Barry L. Collier
|Music by||Jeffrey Johnson|
Steven Jae Johnson
|Cinematography||Bruce Douglas Johnson|
|Edited by||Michael Ripps|
Prism Entertainment Corp.
|Distributed by||The Samuel Goldwyn Company|
A Million to Juan is a 1994 romantic comedy film starring comedian Paul Rodriguez. It was also his directorial debut. The story is a modern spin on Mark Twain's story "The Million Pound Bank Note". The story begins with a narration by Alejandro Lopez as he retells the events of his father's life, Juan Lopez (Paul Rodriguez), and how by selling oranges he changed their lives.
Juan was born on a strawberry field in Bakersfield, California, but due to hardship, his mother decided to relocate to Mexico. Now Juan is an undocumented citizen, due to no proof of US citizenship, of Los Angeles, struggling not only to get a green card, but to solely care for Alejandro, after his wife's death.
Yet, he has no documentation to attest to his U.S. citizenship and lives as an undocumented worker in Los Angeles selling oranges near the freeway. He lives with two roommates and tries to make ends meet so he can take care of his little son. He loves to cook and feed them gourmet meals (secret plot hint) each day as he tries desperately to make ends meet so he can take care of his little son. He is stressed as he battles landlords and immigration.
One afternoon, a stranger (Edward James Olmos) in a fancy limousine finds Juan, on the street corner, broke, almost homeless, with a child to care for and with only the hope of a shopping cart with oranges to keep him from utter homelessness. The very wealthy stranger clearly understands the situation, pulls up quietly and hands to Juan a check in the amount of $1,000,000.00, but under the condition, that he MUST give back all the money in one month. Juan is suspicious and takes the check to his immigration worker (Polly Draper) who encourages him to follow the directions given him, but first, he is encouraged by his brothers to use the check to get credit extended to them at several posh Hollywood clothing stores, an exotic car dealership, and more.
Juan comes to learn, his son's social worker (Polly Draper), is a woman in a difficult and likely "dead-end relationship with a bossy businessman who cares little if nothing about her and the lives of the poor, unfortunately in this instance, the less educated Hispanics living and working, doing unskilled work in Metro Los Angeles. Then the fun begins for good-natured Juan Lopez, who has to avoid temptations and the greedy people that who have suddenly popped-up in his life suddenly, but are soon to be part of this brief and fleeting life as a "once upon a time moment as a virtual one month millionaire."
Juan begins to realize, money is not everything in one's life despite some very valuable materials things that can come, go, be given, and even taken away. He begins to realize, that the true meaning of life is truly love, family, and happiness, and that money alone isn't the answer.
Unfortunately, the millionaire experience begins to wane, ending with an embarrassing but necessary repossession of the luxury sport car, removal of the tremendous wardrobe of Italian and very posh suits, and clothing. Finally, Juan and his brothers are seen shortly thereafter, garbed in their plain and ordinary street clothes; the only thing left are the clothes on their backs. The final scene reveals a now sad and very depressed Juan, that he had been returned to the streets and his true love for his lady friend; his love interest, rejected him in favor of the practical but unhappy relationship with the smug, arrogant, but very wealthy businessman boyfriend.
Juan reluctantly accepts - he has absolutely nothing to offer but this true love for the woman who he loved. Juan is later seen - "once again" on the Los Angeles street corner near the highway onramp off ramps, selling plastic bags of oranges from a small shopping cart. The Stranger is seen in the long white limo. He reappears, rolls down the dark tinted window, and hands Juan another envelope which contains a piece of paper with a simple address in Central Los Angeles. The stranger tells Juan to go there. Juan, depressed and grieving, tells the Stranger his earlier efforts brought only unhappiness and disappointment to this life. The Stranger assures him, that it's up to Juan to take a chance in life despite his feelings, that to try and to care in life is hopeless...
Later that afternoon, a convertible routinely drives up and stops near Juan. A lady says quietly, but with a big smile: "Oranges, "Por Favor." The movie ends with the promise and hope of a complete and fulfilling future for Juan, his son, brothers, and a few more. Bon Suerte, Juan can be heard at the end of this wonderful story of hope, love, and opportunity.
The staff at Variety magazine gave the film a mixed review, writing, "The odds of A Million to Juan breaking out of its inherent niche-market appeal can be summed up in its title. This gentle rags-to-riches tale set in the Los Angeles barrio is a good-natured parable that, unfortunately, doesn't pack much commercial punch. Its positive intentions aren't enough to cross over into the mainstream...While Rodriguez adheres to the movie dictum of happy endings, his mix of message/mirth is too soft and mushy to reach a contemporary crowd."
Film critic Marc Savlov also gave the film a mixed review, writing, "...comedian Paul Rodriguez has taken a laudable step in the right direction with his directorial debut. Unfortunately, it's no masterpiece...Rodriguez's comic sensibilities are usually razor-keen, but here, blunted by a cliché-riddled storyline and scattershot direction, they seem nonexistent.
The film opened on May 15, 1994, in the United States on a limited release.
A Latino-themed original soundtrack was released on June 14, 1994, on the RMM Records & Video label, an independent Latin music record company based in New York City. The CD contained fourteen tracks. Performers include: Celia Cruz, Marc Anthony, Aramis Camilo, Marcos Loya, Carla De Leon, John Pena, John Saldano, Carl Hatem and others.