TV-MA for trying to be as raunchy as it can be without really earning a lot of the setup. It's borderline trying to be offensive at times. There's bestiality related nudity, jokes surrounding pedophilia, vomiting, a straight up diatribe about how much Catholicism is backwards, a guidance counselor bonding with students because she likes to swear, subsequent swearing, and sexuality. It's pretty TV-MA.
What?! We were big fans of New Girl and we found out that one of the power couples was the power couple behind this movie. Of course we were going to watch it. I start getting really nervous when I see a Netflix original movie hit their Top 10 list. I know. I have no place to really talk. I haven't watched them because I get really snobby. But vulgar comedy and Netflix kind of reads a bit like amateur hour. This is a movie that goes for the easy gag almost every time. It sets up an obvious premise and then lets us linger in that premise for a long time. The thing that really kills me is that there is something to salvage from Desperados: the exact reason that we decided to watch it.
For those who read my blog fairly often, I talk about Catholicism from time-to-time. It's something that is just a cornerstone of my life and, despite the fact that I'm constantly working on my faith, I don't exactly love the cheap shots. Now, comedy really hinges on the idea that those being attacked are equal opportunity. If I'm going to laugh at one category of people, I should be ready to laugh at myself. But that's kind of becoming an old idea. The idea of laughing with instead of laughing at is the new style of comedy. And Desperados mostly keeps to that belief. Besides the outright trying to dunk on Catholicism, the movie really doesn't really punch down all that much. That's what kind of makes the slight so uncomfortable. The only punches it offers are those towards the Catholic church on how backwards she is. Perhaps it is in vogue to make those jokes, but it also was completely absurd how the entire setup and delivery came across. The movie does a pretty good job establishing that Wes is a mess, but no one in their right minds would make the mistake that Wes does. Comedy comes from a grain of truth. Wes goes into this interview at this Catholic school. She knows the job she's going out for. We meet her mid-interview. The interview is going well. She seems to have nailed this opportunity, despite having little experience. Cool. Love it. But then Wes goes into this self-sabotaging nonsense. How did she get through the first half of the interview so well? The reason is, of course, is that anything works if it is a joke. But that's not really a joke. An interview goes well. Then, for no reason whatsoever, the character says the worst things that she can think of without realizing that the interviewer doesn't find it at all amusing? It's a weird choice, but it also sets the tone for the absurdity for the rest of the movie.
If I start listing all of the absurdities of Desperados, it's just going to come across as exactly that, a list. There are these moments that just defy any sense of reason. The world of Desperados is built on the concept that chaos reigns and the unexpected should be expected. Why would the staff at the hotel be so insistent on grabbing a bag, despite the fact that the customer is clearly against this idea? Why would the kid pick it up? Why would the mom act like a complete nutbar? I don't even want to go into the dolphin thing, which makes absolutely no sense in the sphere of reality. The thing is, the dolphin joke has a little bit of reality to it. When it sticks in the boundaries of reality, as uncomfortable as dolphin assault is, it can be kind of funny. But then it goes into that CG slam dunk and it undoes what little good will that joke built up. It's a real bummer.
But I mentioned that there's something redeeming about this. When the movie forgets that it is a raunchy comedy and focuses on the romantic comedy element of the movie, it is actually pretty great. There are a handful of scenes that feature only the romantic leads, Nasim Pedrad and Lamorne Morris. When these two are together, the movie almost becomes something else entirely. I won't deny that that our obsession with New Girl paints a lot of that reaction. I loved them together on that show, but that's also because they have great chemistry together. It's actually a little weird seeing the dynamic inverted. Wes being the quirky one is slightly refreshing, although I wouldn't have minded having Morris revisit some of Winston's eccentricities. But these two work because there's something really vulnerable about these interactions. Sure, the movie tells us more than it really should with Sean's character. A lot of that should have been relegated to internal character moments. But because we know the history of Sean and his wife, we get to see this character who grows on us like he grows on Wes. His distant and cold interactions at the beginning of the movie mirror the cold exterior of Mr. Darcy (I'm so sorry to everyone out there who read that comparison.) We are presented with one person. He seems aloof and distant, although handsome and seductive at the same time. (Again, there's all kinds of stuff going on with this paragraph and I REFUSE TO HIT BACKSPACE!) But as the story continues, we get to understand the "why" of his character. While Sean is never as aggressively distant as Darcy, the motive behind his behavior makes all the more sense. This allows us to fall in love with Sean as Wes is coming to the same realization. It also doesn't hurt that Jared comes across as a laughable manchildish boyfriend in the grand scheme of things. I also don't want a crazy girlfriend, Jared, but I'm not planning on being a monster about it.
But for all my rooting for Sean and Wes, the rest of the movie can really take a flying leap. I mean, I borderline cringed at how rough some of the moments were in this film. It's not unrealistic to find the protagonist with an entourage. After all, Wes is so silly that there needs to be contrast with this character. I don't know why I don't like Brooke and Kaylie at all. That's not true. I didn't like them from moment one, but I will back that up with something that got justified later on. Brooke and Kaylie somehow sabotage the movie into trying to make Wes look like a bad guy. Okay, Wes kind of is a bad guy, but these two characters were complete co-conspirators...until they weren't. Wes was someone in a bad place in her life. She had a moment of happiness that she thought was a lie and fell down hard. There is a moment in the story where Wes decides to write a mean email. Now, the movie wants to paint Wes out to be this monster. This is a pivotal moment in the story. When Wes wants to write the email that acts as the inciting incident, the two girls who are meant to represent normality and morality in contrast to Wes don't try to stop her. Let's be real. Good friends would tell someone that he wasn't worth the hassle. Emails, after all, always come back to haunt you. But for the joke, all three girls get into the email and write what is supposed to be the most vitriolic email that they can think of. Heck, Wes isn't even there when the email is sent. She's on the phone discovering that Jared is in a hospital in Mexico. In their enthusiasm, the two others gleefully send the email. It's then that Wes reveals her plan to go to Mexico to retrieve the letter.
Now, while Brooke is hesitant to go, Wes never really hides her intentions for Mexico. The plan always was to do whatever it took to get that email back before Jared got a hold of it. Yes, the two women are kinda / sorta self-sacrificial because they become backseat drivers on a journey that isn't about them. But then they turn on Wes when things go wrong. When it becomes difficult, suddenly the narrative becomes about "Why don't I get my turn?" And that's what the movie wants to tell us. Yes, Wes said that they could go to the guru (which is even more insane and doesn't fit this movie), but the primary reason for going to Mexico was to retrieve that email. It's not like Wes kept on adding secondary goals for herself before going to the guru. No, the point was always to get the email back. Why were her friends so willing to throw in the towel? (Realistically, I would have thrown in the towel sooner than getting arrested in Mexico. But I also wouldn't expect to form a cabal against my friend and kick her out of the group with a sense of moral superiority.)
But all of this? It's all window-dressing for the concept that the movie is phenomenally stupid. It feels completely underbaked and rushed. There's no craft or love to this movie. It is a story that we've seen before done way worse than those other times. It has a great set of romantic leads, but the rest of the movie is utter trash. Characters' motivations don't often make sense. It always goes for the ribald joke instead of the well-crafted. I don't think I really laughed once in the movie. It's pretty rough.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.