DESPERADOS (2020), a new rom com currently available on Netflix, is getting deplorable reviews. But I enjoyed this one. I liked the characters, and I laughed quite a bit, which for me is the true indicator of a good comedy. Make me laugh, and I’m in.
DESPERADOS made me laugh.
Wesley (Nasim Pedrad) is having a tough go at it. She can’t get a job, as her efforts to land a position as a school guidance counselor continue to be fruitless. She’s having no luck with dating, as the men she’s interested in keep marrying other women, and her latest blind date with a guy named Sean (Lamorne Morris) is over within minutes. But when she meets Jared (Robbie Amell) she is swept off her feet, and the two hit it off immediately and share a night of passionate lovemaking.
However, the following week, Jared ghosts her, as he doesn’t reply to her texts. Frustrated, she and her two best friends, Brooke (Anna Camp) and Kaylie (Sarah Burns) get drunk and decide to write Jared the nastiest email ever, which they do. And just as they are sending it, Jared calls Wesley and tells her he’s in a hospital in Mexico recovering from a nasty accident, and that he’s been in a medically induced coma all week.
Wesley decides that there is no way she can allow Jared to read that email, and she deduces that the only way to do this is to go to Mexico herself, find Jared’s computer, which is in his hotel room, and delete the email herself before he’s released from the hospital. Brooke and Kaylie agree to go with her.
And so the rest of the movie follows their madcap attempts at finding that computer and deleting the email.
As stories go, the one told in DESPERADOS is nothing new or special, but there’s just something amiable about it that had me chuckling throughout. In spite of its frequent and not always successful vulgar humor, there’s a simple playfulness present in this movie that hearkens way, way back to the classic rom coms of yesteryear, those Doris Day/Rock Hudson gems from the 1950s-60s.
And DESPERADOS wastes no time. Its pre-credit sequence where Wesley interviews with a nun for a guidance counselor position at a Catholic school, and she’s pretty much got the job, but she keeps on talking about her views on sex and masturbation, for instance, is— well, flat out hilarious is what it is! I was laughing out loud before the opening credits, and that for me was a very good sign.
The screenplay by Ellen Rapoport is very funny. It does get lewd and crude, and not always with good results. For instance, there’s an explicit bit with a dolphin that I did not find funny at all. Nor did I enjoy the running gag about Wesley being accused of being a pedophile because she keeps crossing paths with a young boy in various unintended sexual situations, and the boy obviously develops a crush on her. Honestly, I found nothing comical about this plot point.
However, the frank and colorful conversations among Wesley and her best friends Brooke and Kaylie about sex I found hilarious. There’s a line about going down and “would you rather” that made me laugh out loud.
The physical comedy is also very good. Director LP sets up lots of slapstick scenes, from Wesley’s attempts to climb an electric fence to a dubious leap from a hotel balcony.
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE alum Nasim Pedrad excels as Wesley, and she really does carry this movie. She’s extremely entertaining, and since she’s in nearly every scene, I couldn’t help but enjoy watching from beginning to end.
She also shares strong chemistry with Lamorne Morris, as his character Sean by chance also happens to be in Mexico. He helps her on her mission to rescue her relationship with Jared. Of course in doing so, he and Wesley begin to fall for each other. Again, not the most original plot point, but it works here thanks to solid writing and first-rate performances by Pedrad and Morris. Morris starred in the TV show NEW GIRL (2011-18), and interestingly enough Pedrad also co-starred on that show for a time as Morris’ love interest.
Anna Camp and Sarah Burns round out the cast as Wesley’s friends Brooke and Kaylie, and they each enjoy fine moments in the movie. The scene where they attempt to pick up two guys at a bar in Mexico is one of the crudest yet funniest scenes in the movie.
And Heather Graham shows up towards the film’s end as a spiritual guru Angel de la Paz in what could have been a total throwaway role, but it’s not. She hangs around long enough to have a key scene in the movie.
Does all of DESPERADOS work? Nope. Some of it doesn’t, like its depiction of the Mexican hotel workers, which I found to be cliche and beneath the type of characterizations we should be seeing in the here and now. But overall I laughed much more than I thought I would.
I actually enjoyed DESPERADOS more than the well-received rom com THE HALF OF IT (2020), simply because I laughed more. I also thought it was far funnier than THE LOVEBIRDS (2020), COFFEE & KAREEM (2020), and LIKE A BOSS (2020), some other recent comedies I’ve reviewed this year.
If you’re looking to laugh, and you don’t mind your rom coms on the vulgar side, look no further than DESPERADOS. Ignore what critics are saying. It’s the real deal. In spite of its formulaic plot, it has a romantic story tucked away neatly inside its frank sexual conversations and crass sight gags, culminating in a movie that somehow manages to capture the spirit of the classic romantic comedies of yesteryear, and it does this by giving us flawed characters who mean well, and comedy that actually makes us laugh.
And these days, where finding a good movie comedy is proving as difficult as finding disinfectant cleaners at the grocery store, that’s saying quite a lot.