Of all the films I review for Static and Screen, comedies provide the biggest logistical challenge.
In all films, there are elements you can judge subjectively – whether the story connects emotionally, whether the performances are endearing, whether the craft is excellent. But humor is inherently subjective, and therein lies the rub.
I, for example, wasn’t too keen on last weekend’s “Eurovision Song Contest,” but it’s very possible that you might find it hilarious. And while I am still tickled on each repeat viewing of “Jojo Rabbit,” I realize that you might not feel the same way.
Thus, I decided early in my reviewing career that, when reviewing comedies, I would try to share some of each comedy’s jokes. That way you can decide for yourself whether a film will make you chuckle.
In that spirit, I will note that Netflix’s newest comedy “Desperados” includes a running joke implying that lead Wesley (Nasim Pedrad) is romantically involved with a 12-year-old boy. There is a slapstick car crash involving a goat and jokes about Hitler. The climax of the film- both literally and metaphorically, I guess- involves a dolphin penis.
If you’re chuckling already, by all means, go to Netflix and give “Desperados” a view. But, if you prefer your comedies with a significantly lower dolphin-penis-to-joke ratio, I’m sorry to say you’re out of luck. “Desperados” is a lowest-common-denominator sort of movie, so much so that it makes “Eurovision” look like “Citizen Kane.”
It’s honestly kind of disappointing because director LP has assembled a talented cast of young comedians and wasted a too-rare starring turn from Nasim Pedrad, a “Saturday Night Live” veteran who has previously enlivened mediocre material ranging from the “Aladdin” remake to a short-lived John Mulaney sitcom.
Pedrad plays Wesley, the sort of needy, clingy and borderline stalker-esque girlfriend who only exists in the movies. Her boyfriend/victim is Jared (Robbie Amell), who is a nice if somewhat traditional sports agent. If you can guess that Jared isn’t necessarily meant to be with a girl who brags about her sexual experiences during a job interview at a Catholic school, congratulations- you are a few steps ahead of this movie.
After five days of radio silence from Jared, Wesley sends out a rambling, un-spellchecked e-mail cussing the guy out for ghosting her. Then she immediately discovers that he’s been in a medically induced coma after a car accident.
In normal life, this is where the situation would end- Jared would read the e-mail after leaving the hospital, Jared and Wesley would break up, and they would both find much more compatible partners. But that wouldn’t be much of a movie, so Wesley and her gal pals (Anna Camp and Sarah Burns) head to Jared’s resort in Mexico to delete the e-mail. Hijinks ensue, naturally.
Pedrad is unquestionably the best thing about “Desperados.” Although the jokes (or lack thereof) are beneath her talents and honestly a little demeaning, she commits so them, and she has a few moments of chemistry with her former “New Girl” costar Lamorne Morris, who plays a much more likely romantic interest for Wesley.
But the gags are more shocking than shockingly funny- trying to provoke you more than make you smile. The supporting characters are thin, and Camp and Burns are given little to do. The plot requires you to suspend belief time and again. The whole film feels forced, and very little rings true.
At least one moment did seem authentic to me – Pedrad’s reaction while watching a man clip his toenails on an airplane. I have been in her shoes and had much the same expression of shock, horror and disgust.
But honestly, if I had to choose between watching someone clip their toenails in public and watching “Desperados” (rated TV-MA for language and suggestive dialogue) again, I might be tempted to go with the former. At least I know my toenail guy isn’t going to make any pedophilia jokes.
About the author
Stephen Dow is an award-winning journalist with a passion for film – not just consuming it, but thoughtfully and actively engaging with it. He believes that these modern myths have a lot to tell us about our world and ourselves. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.