Man, what a year for comedies. At this stage in the global and national hell-scape that has been 2020, it’s been crucial to have a selection of joke-em-if-ya-got-em comedies on hand to help take a load off. And boy, have I been puttin’ ‘em to use. In any given “normal” year, I definitely enjoy my comedies, but they’re usually peppered in throughout a healthy meal of dramas and indies. But the entire menu le film in 2020 has been reduced to a prix fixe state, and what has been thriving are Netflix and Hulu-hosted comedies. The majority of said comedies that have been released within the past few months feel even more comforting because they’ve come from three reputable (depending which house you’re in) comedy giants: the Happy Madison crew, Will Ferrell, and The Lonely Island gang.
When I got the notion to write this review about a month back, it was in a world pre-Palm Springs, and I had planned on covering The Lovebirds instead. Now, as much as I love Michael Showalter (who directed the film), I truly found The Lovebirds left me at a net zero. It’s got a lot of great ingredients (Kumail Nanjiani, Issa Rae, and commentary on race and modern romance), but most of the jokes must have been pretty boring, because after watching it only a month ago, I really don’t remember any of the actual dialogue. I remember the moments and scenes of the film, and the overall vibe, but I gotta say, nothing really sticks out for me. And the ending of the film honestly bummed me out and felt fairly contrived. So, this isn’t going to be a review of The Lovebirds (if you’d like to hear my thoughts, feel free to hit me up on twitter @BeaGorman), but instead I want to talk about the whirlwind of emotions stirred up by Netflix’s The Wrong Missy and Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, and Hulu’s Palm Springs.
Fair warning: Spoilers for all three films ahead!
Worst goes first, so let’s dive into the Hawaii-set catastrophe that is The Wrong Missy. Whew, friends, I did not like this movie, BUT I can at least give it some props because I VERY much remember it. Again, the ingredients all seem very tasty. Brought to you by the Happy Madison production company, and surely one of the contracted Netflix-Adam Sandler joints, The Wrong Missy stars David Spade, Lauren Lapkus, and Sarah Chalke, all of whom I very much enjoy...apparently just not in this setting. Spade stars as a character named Tim, a corporate bumble of a man, competing for a promotion at a company retreat on the island of Oahu. Prior to the retreat, he experiences two encounters: a terrifying blind date with Lapkus’ Missy and a meet-cute for the gods in an airport with Molly Sims’ Melissa, his soul-mate incarnate. But because of his poor organization skills, when he decides to invite his dream girl to accompany him on his corporate retreat, instead of inviting Melissa, the former Miss Maryland, he texts Missy, a nightmare with legs.
I really do love Lauren Lapkus, and if anything, it’s a joy to watch her become a human tornado in the boy’s club that is the Happy Madison gang. But ya can’t just put a woman in a stereotypical male-led raunchy comedy leading role and call it a day. I’m gonna be real frank, real quick and let you know that towards the beginning of the film, Missy drugs Tim on the flight to Hawaii and rapes him. He wakes up to Missy giving him a hand job under a cheap airline blanket, and because he’s not written as a real human being and is truly only a vessel for Missy’s hijinks, they touch down in Hawaii with Tim only hoping to keep Missy away from his boss and coworkers (which, of course, doesn’t pan out).
But then (BUT THEN!), Missy rapes Tim AGAIN! This goes down their first night in paradise, after a ridiculous day of networking and Missy-babysitting, where Missy gets to meet Tim’s ex-fiance, Julia (played by Sarah Chalke, who left Tim to date one of his co-workers - so yeah, of course she’s also in Hawaii). Upon their meeting, Missy picks up on the romantic vibes between Julia and Tim, and she tells Tim he can face-fuck her later, explaining that “face-fucking” is when you have sex with a person while imagining it’s someone else. So, while Missy’s passed out after a day of drinking, Tim takes some sleeping medication to fall asleep and fantasizes about having sex with Julia. But when he comes to, it’s Missy on top of him, saying that he was begging for the sex while he was “sleeping.” She delights in finding out that he’s face-fucking her, because she’s doing the same with him using Simon Cowell’s face instead of his. It’s a complete dumpster-fire of a situation, and truly, in no way, shape, or form is it FUNNY. This isn’t what women are looking for in equitable comedy roles. Raunch can be raunch without rape. (And I want to write “obviously” at the end of this sentence, but I guess it’s not? Lauren, why oh why did you sign up for this?)
Ugh, I just really wish this movie didn’t exist. I’m not gonna go into a lot of detail about the intricacies of the plot, but throughout the remainder of the film, Missy displays various acts of service (therapy, CPR, hypnotism, etc.) that are attempts to make her seem more well-rounded, interesting, and endearing than her manic behavior suggests. Slowly, Tim becomes more curious about the “eclectic” Missy, and the lesson he learns is that he needs to loosen his tie and take life less seriously. And by the time Missy finds out she’s the “wrong Missy” and leaves Hawaii heart-broken, Tim’s fallen for her. Even when the “right Missy,” Melissa, arrives on the island, Tim explains to her that she’s too late and he’s gotta go make it right with his new love.
(Mind you, the aforementioned therapy was convincing Tim’s boss’ wife that she should leave her husband; the CPR was performed on Tim’s boss after having put him in a life-endangering shark encounter; and the hypnotism was used to hypnotize Tim’s boss to view Tim as his beloved grandmother while feeling nauseous when he hears the name of Tim’s promotion competition.)
Truly, this film just perpetuates the worst in comedy tropes, and instead of chastising bad behavior, it rewards it. As an adult who can very clearly see the problems The Wrong Missy presents, I loathe the idea that children have access to this film and can blindly find it funny because there are pratfalls, beautiful women in bikinis, and a goofy Rob Schneider character. I just desperately want comedy to move beyond this, and I know that the Happy Madison crew have it in them, because they’ve done it before. Just get these manipulative, sex assault, Stockholm Syndrome comedies outta here! (And while you’re at it, maybe stop writing characters for Nick Swardson? I don’t know, guys, he’s just not for me.)
I’ll give The Wrong Missy one thing: they put Jorge Garcia on a plane again, and that’s very funny. Okay, moving on!
Oh boy, so we’re gonna take a complete 180, because I really enjoyed Netflix’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga! Written by Will Ferrell and Andrew Steele, Eurovision illustrates the journey two Icelandic singers - Lars Erickssong (Ferrell) and Sigrit Ericksdóttir (Rachel McAdams) as the band, Fire Saga - take to participate in the world-renowned song competition, Eurovision. For those unfamiliar with the global phenomenon, the Eurovision Song Contest has been held annually since 1956 and has grown to feature 52 countries over the course of their contest. Countries hold regional competitions to select their country’s representative, and then once on the big stage, each country gets to participate in voting for the winner, without being able to cast a vote for themselves. It’s highly diplomatic, generally good-spirited, and promotes cultural acceptance and community. What’s not to love? And with an odd sense of spiritual foresight, Ferrell and company crafted a heartfelt ode to the competition that just so happened to premiere in 2020, the first year in Eurovision’s history where they had to cancel their contest, breaking their streak of being the longest running annual international televised music competition. Perhaps they’ll count the film as a placeholder?
In my estimation, there are three type of Will Ferrell roles: ya got your dumb guy (Step Brothers), your serious guy (Everything Must Go), and your dumb/serious guy hybrid who offers an homage to distinct facets of cultural zeitgeist, most often segregated by profession (Anchorman, Blades of Glory, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, etc). Eurovision clearly falls into the last camp, and I’d argue it’s his most sincere, authentic, and flattering send-up to date. It’s clear from the very beginning of the film that he and Steele wanted to capture the enthusiasm for the beloved song competition and truly illustrate just how iconic the competition is. As an American playing an Icelandic singer, Ferrell takes great pleasure within the film to poke fun at a group of American tourists by lambasting their lack of appreciation of world culture. And, uh, yeah Lars...you have a point there.
Earlier in this piece, when I didn’t want to get into the driving plot points of The Wrong Missy, it was because I didn’t want to think about it anymore. But here, I won’t divulge too much about Eurovision, because I think you should truly experience it for yourself. I obviously recommend it, and I think you’ll have a really fun time. But I do want to briefly get into just what makes Eurovision sing.
Rachel McAdams and Will Ferrell are a surprising comedic endgame, and I would never have thought to partner these two actors at any other point in history. While both were in Wedding Crashers (also directed by Eurovision’s David Dobkin), their paths never crossed while filming. But as Sigrit and Lars, their chemistry is off the charts and we are graced with multiple, fun moments of comedic tête-à-tête that feel very specific and lived in, which is refreshing for a stereotypical comedy. As goofy as these two Icelanders are, and as hyper-realized their hometown of Húsavík is (which is a real town in Iceland), the fact that these characters take themselves seriously forces the viewer to take them seriously too. And as an added bonus, it lets you laugh at them at the same time.
I will warn you, however, that this movie does get fairly intense. I took a deep dive through the history of winners from Eurovision after watching the film, and Eurovision is pitch perfect. The songs are ornamental, the costumes are fabulous, and the dramatics on stage are a sight to behold; but it seems exceedingly elaborate if you're not familiar with the source material. For instance, there is one scene at Alexander’s mansion ------- hold on, wait, can you believe I forgot to mention that…
Dan Stevens (the man, the Myth, the LEGEND) is in Eurovision!!! He plays a Russian competitor named Alexander Lemtov who, with endearing charm, may be trying to throw a wrench in Lars and Sigrit’s plans...but I digress -----
There is one scene at Alexander’s Scottish mansion (the fictional Eurovision competition is held in Edinburgh) where the contestants are partying together before the competition begins, and a “Song-a-Long” begins. The contestants gather ‘round, a beat begins, and before you know it they’re all belting out a mash-up of pop songs, and multiple real-life actual contestants of Eurovision’s past get to participate. Their involvement was initially lost on me, but I began to gather that they were former contestants when Conchita Wurst (an Australian drag queen who won in 2014) was finally revealed, and then it clicked. (I knew I recognized that voice.) But I promise you, if these types of Glee-level shenanigans aren’t for you (like they aren’t for me), this is the peak of that mountain and everything else feels fairly grounded (as grounded as a flamboyant singing competition can be).
But Lars, Sigrit, and Alexander aside, the music in Eurovision could possibly be the best pop album of 2020. (I don’t know, could it? I don’t listen to a lot of modern pop music. Oh yeah, Chromatica came out this year. Okay, well...) What I’m trying to say is that it’s surprisingly good. I was a little disheartened to find out that McAdams wasn’t Sigrit’s sole singing voice (her voice was blended with Swedish Eurovision four-time participant Molly Sandén’s) and that Stevens’ singing parts were sang by the Swedish singer Mjönes, but ultimately I was happy to hear some killer vocals and it was heartening to know they really kept Eurovision in the family. They even took the time to write a fake-but-”classic” Icelandic song called “Ja Ja Ding Dong,” that is akin to something like a “Sweet Caroline.” You know, one of those songs that people lose their shit over, but one that Fire Saga gets tired of being asked to cover. This attention to detail about lore and history, among many other instances, make this a world that feels truly lived in.
I think you guys get it though; I really liked Eurovision and I really disliked The Wrong Missy, so where does that leave Palm Springs?
I fucking LOVED IT! Palm Springs, which is on Hulu and stars Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti, is honestly the entire package for me. It’s got humor, chemistry, a plot that is both challenging and accessible, and best of all, heart. Honestly, Eurovision goes toe to toe with Palm Springs in a lot of those categories (and is more easily categorized as an actual “comedy”), but overall it’s just a sillier, goofier time and that’s perfectly okay. I just happen to vibe with the overall tone of Palm Springs more. Eurovision is the best strawberry ice cream you can find, but I like chocolate just a little bit more, ya know?
But that’s it. That’s all you’re gonna get outta me about Palm Springs. It’s so good that you just gotta watch it for yourself. That hype you’re hearing about it is very real. And the less you know going in, the better. But I’ll give you this; I recently recorded a lovely Story Screen Presents: Hot Takes episode for Palm Springs with Robby Anderson and Diana DiMuro, and if you’re interested in hearing more of my/our thoughts on Palm Springs, I’d be honored to hear if you agree. As for now, I better mosey on back to the farm. I’ve been consumed by comedies lately, and I've been hearing tell there’s a First Cow that needs to be fed...
Bernadette graduated from DePauw University in 2011 with a Film Studies degree she’s not currently using. She constantly consumes television, film, and all things pop culture and will never be full. She doesn’t tweet much, but give her a follow @BeaGorman and see if that changes.