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Return to sender - ‘Desperados’

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Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Netflix has another original romantic comedy hitting their service.

The streaming giant has done significant work in their efforts to corner a variety of cinematic niche markets through the combined power of their algorithm and their checkbook. Nowhere is that focus more apparent than in the realm of rom-coms; Netflix is the undisputed industry leader as far as that genre goes. They just keep churning them out, for (sometimes) better and (usually) worse.

Their latest offering is “Desperados,” a film that is very much the latter. It is a derivative and vaguely dull film, one that seems to have simply thrown a bunch of clichés and tropes at the wall and filmed what stuck. It is a warmed-over rehash, a cover band attempting to play the hits. It’s the sort of movie that offers literally nothing that you haven’t seen before.

Watching this movie is like watching items checked off a list. Quirky female protagonist? Check. Two unreasonably supportive friends? Check. Ridiculous and easily avoided mistake made? Check. Exotic getaway setting? Check. Questionable decision making? Check. Physical injury played for laughs? Check.

You get the picture.

Wesley (Nasim Pedrad, “Aladdin”) is a woman adrift. She’s struggling to find a job; her tendency toward oversharing continuously undermines her interviews. Said oversharing is causing some issues in her dating life as well, leaving her single and generally not loving it. Her friends Brooke (Anna Camp, “The Lovebirds”) and Kaylie (Sarah Burns, TV’s “Barry”) are unwavering in their support, shunting aside their own concerns – Brooke’s marriage is crumbling and Kaylie is struggling to get pregnant – in order to help their friend.

When a blind date with Sean (Lamorne Morris, “Bloodshot”) goes awry, Wesley flees into the night, only to fall down and hit her head. She’s helped by Jared (Robbie Amell, TV’s “Upload”), a handsome, charming man who seems to like her in her woozy, possibly concussed state. From this, Wesley determines that as long as she conceals her true self, she can be happy with a seemingly perfect guy.

But when Jared goes radio silent for nearly a week, Wesley goes scorched earth; she and her friends get drunk and compose a rage-filled email to send to him. Of course, right as they do, he calls to tell her that he’s been incommunicado for a reason – he was in a car accident in Mexico and has been in the hospital.

Since this is a Netflix rom-com, the trio quickly hatch a plan. They’re going to go to Mexico, sneak into his hotel room and delete the email from his devices. Obviously.

As you might guess, it isn’t that easy. Hijinks very much ensue as the three women make their way to the high-end resort hotel where Jared was staying. Also, Sean is there by some massive coincidence, because of course he is. Their efforts lead to injuries and embarrassment and humiliation (not to mention some legal action) as Wesley has to come to terms with her own flaws and accept herself for the person she is, not the person she thinks she should be.

Do you have a guess as to how it all plays out? Because if you do, you’re probably right.

“Desperados” is a placeholder of a film, formulaic and forgettable. And yes, there’s an argument that following the formula shouldn’t necessarily mean a film is dismissed out of hand. There’s a reason all of those rom-com hallmarks exist – they can be very effective. But I’m not dismissing “Desperados” because of its formulaic nature. I’m dismissing it because it isn’t very good.

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. If so, then the majority of Adam Sandler’s Netflix oeuvre must be blushing, because “Desperados” borrows liberally and blatantly from the Happy Madison playbook. Seriously – you could swap in the standard selection of Sandlerian friends and family and this movie wouldn’t change in any significant way. Every joke is obvious and every development is telegraphed.

Nasim Pedrad isn’t a bad actress, but she’s not equipped to carry a movie like this one. She could probably shine in better material better executed, but here, she’s largely just flailing in an effort to keep her head above water. Camp and Burns do their best as well, but their respective parts are too one-note for them to have any real impact on the proceedings – even their shared subplot seems like an effort to pad out the runtime more than anything. As for the dudes – meh. Amell does generically handsome bro pretty well, but he’s largely a non-factor. And while I genuinely like Morris, this ain’t it. He’s giving it his all – and I would love to see him in something that showcased his talents – but he’s a glorified plot device here.

“Desperados” is a fairly typical Netflix offering, a flavorless entry into the vast mushy middle of streaming services. It’s not an actively bad movie, but it’s far from a good one, a film seemingly purposefully designed to exist solely as background noise while you pay attention to something else. Not that it matters, because its sheer disposability is such that you might forget it before you’re even done watching.

All told, you’re probably not desperate enough for “Desperados.”

[1.5 out of 5]

Last modified on Monday, 06 July 2020 09:18

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