Nasim Pedrad should be the lead in romantic comedy vehicles. Beyond her own worthy talent, we need more women of color leading movies. Unfortunately, the Netflix rom-com Desperados is not the right vehicle for Pedrad, or any human being for that matter.
‘Desperados’ is a rom-com without rom or com
Wesley (Pedrad) can’t get a job (in a painfully unfunny interview for a Catholic School guidance counselor position) and has no luck in love either. She has a bad blind date with Sean (Lamorne Morris) but stumbles into the arms of Jared (Robbie Amell) on her way home.
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Her plan is to keep quiet with Jared so he never learns things about her he doesn’t like, yet she keeps talking in every subsequent scene. She pretends to like healthy food and his wacky activities.
Then Jared ghosts Wesley for five days too. With the help of her best friends, Brooke (Anna Camp) and Kaylie (Sarah Burns), Wesley crafts the ultimate angry e-mail. But, it turns out Jared was in an automobile accident in Mexico. Unfortunately, they already sent the e-mail already, so the trio of friends go to Mexico to try to erase it from Jared’s devices before he gets out of the hospital.
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This is the plot of Road Trip, except the 2000 comedy was about retrieving a video tape that was mailed to a girlfriend. Technology has made it an emoji filled e-mail, but there’s not even a wacky road trip to get to Mexico. They just arrive and have shenanigans at a Mexican resort, where the cast and crew probably got to stay for months while filming. Nor is it as well-crafted as Girls Trip, where that quartet spent the whole movie in New Orleans but had enough plot and jokes for everyone.
‘Desperados’ is desperate for laughs
Many of the set pieces in Desperados, particularly the e-mail writing scene, feel like improv being “Yes and…”ed too far. They think they’re making gold and they may have been having fun, but an editor should have stepped in. Camp in particular telegraphs every joke in Brooke’s scenes with an expression that seems like she’s proud of herself for making a funny. That would be bad technique even if she was funny, but she’s rubbing it in when it’s not funny to begin with.
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Wesley’s schemes to get into Jared’s hotel room involve stripping to a towel, and her bumbling explanations for this are not funny either. It’s a bravura performance for Pedrad to bare a lot, but the payoff is not worth her trouble. A running joke about misunderstandings with a pre-pubescent hotel guest are not funny. Seinfeld basically did that joke when Elaine went to a Bar Mitzvah, but kept it wholesome and clever.
A trope of bad rom-coms is when there are no actual jokes, they throw in animal shenanigans. See Failure to Launch. Desperados uses a dolphin. Raunchy dolphins are not a funny combo, it turns out.
The message the movie fails to have
A raunchy comedy can have meaningful messages that enhance the humor. The aforementioned Girls Trip has a sincere message about friendship and individual relationships that doesn’t impede on any of the comedy. Even Road Trip has something to say about moing on from high school romances.
Desperados suddenly wants Wesley to learn a lesson about her friends. The point is that she’s been selfish and neglected her friends, but so has the movie. They forgot to give Brooke and Kaylie any characteristics besides being “the friends,” so when they suddenly become indignant, it doesn’t work. They’re right in theory. Wesley is self-involved, but the movie never constructed an enviroment around her. Meanwhile, it spent time sending Brooke and Kaylie on side quests that are just as unfunny as Wesley’s.
Then Sean happens to be at the same resort and ends up helping Wesley solve her e-mail problem. Sean is the most developed character in the movie, and it still only amounts to him throwing out some expository backstory, which admittedly Morris plays well.
Standards tend to be lower for Netflix movies than theatrical releases, but not this low. Most viewers have seen Girls Trip and you, Desperados, are no Girls Trip.