Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Movie Review: Naked (2017)

With December fast approaching, I can already feel my brain preparing itself for the ensuing marathon of reviews. Of course, with the increase in aptitude to see films, there’s also an increased willingness to subject myself to... less-than-ideal releases. The kind of films that people would usually come across in passing and never think of again, either because they’re too dull, too stupid, or just too bad in general. It’s the same mindset that led me to reviewing Fifty Shades Of Black last year, a film as useless as it is a failure at what should be the easiest job in the world: Taking the piss out of the works of E. L. James. And now, it seems that Marlon Wayons and Michael Tiddes are back it again with a Netflix-exclusive release… and somehow, it has an even lower approval rating than Fifty Shades; either version. We’re dealing with another addition to The 0% Club today, so strap yourselves in for what will most likely be a complete disaster. This is Naked.


The plot: Rob (Marlon Wayans) is set to marry his fiancĂ©e Megan (Regina Hall). However, on the day of the wedding, Rob wakes up naked and trapped in an elevator. When he tries (and fails) to make it to the church on time, he finds himself back in the elevator. Rob is stuck in a time loop, and between his own concerns with the wedding and those of his future father-in-law (Dennis Haysbert), Megan’s ex (Scott Foley) and her bridesmaid (Eliza Coupe), Rob has a lot to overcome in order to break the loop.

Hate to say it but this film is already off to a decent start with the cast. Wayans is now playing a character whose flaws need to be overcome, rather than someone whose flaws have to be sat through for the sake of ‘comedy’ like with Fifty Shades Of Black and A Haunted House. His status as a romantic lead is still a bit suspect, and his willingness to participate in slapstick isn’t doing him that many favours, but honestly, I’ll accept him at least trying to engage through something other than blunt force annoyance. Hall, while more a plot point in character’s clothing than an actual character here, serves her purpose in the story and her and Wayans make for a cute couple. Haysbert as the father-in-law hits the seething contempt button almost continuously throughout the entire film, and his presence is made incredibly bland because of it. Foley as the ex-boyfriend likewise sticks to a single trait, that being a far-from-hidden want to steal the show in more ways than one. However, as far as obvious villains go, he’s a good fit for the role, same with Coupe as the bridesmaid Vicky. Loretta Devine as Rob’s mother basically only has singing as her character, which she does well enough especially when paired with a cameo from Brian McKnight, Dave Sheridan and Neil Brown Jr. as a pair of cops do nicely with their buddy dynamic, for as little of it that we end up seeing, and J.T. Jackson as Rob’s brother works well with how he ends up underplaying the role. Trust me, in a film this loud and obnoxious, that is a very welcome addition.

For once, Michael Tiddes isn’t making a spoof movie here. Instead, he and Wayans are basically cutting the pretence of satire and doing a straight-up remake, this time of a 2000 Swedish film of the same name. Without that need to constantly reference shit that the audience might have heard of for a cheap laugh, surely this film’s sense of humour would get an upgrade in the process. Well, kind of. It still sticks to basic stuff, like the simple act of being naked or wearing kooky things to cover it up being funny in and of itself, and if I never have to see Marlon buck-ass naked again, I will die a happy chappy. However, it’s far less mean-spirited here, sticking mainly to Rob’s character as he continually tries and fails to make his wedding day as best as it can be. Hell, even with the frequent and rather uncomfortable nudity, cinematographer David Ortkiese does surprisingly well at echoing the old-school style of nude comedy with how the frame conveniently hides the naked body through the set dressing. I say “surprisingly” because, aside from being DOP for Tiddes’ past films, he also worked in the camera and lighting department for a little film called The Room. Yes, that The Room. No jab I could possibly make at this film could outweigh having a direct through-line to one of the single worst romances ever conceived by human hands.

But what about the time loop narrative? I mean, it’s been so well-worn over the last several years, especially since the original Naked was released, that films have to try pretty hard to keep things interesting. Thankfully, the three credited writers, including Wayans himself, seem to understand what they can do with the concept and apparently tried everything they could. Now, on paper, this is a good approach: Filmmakers appreciating the inherent freedom of a story concept will never not be a good thing, especially in more fantastical works like this. However, that level of freedom results in a lot of the film feeling amorphous, like what we are seeing barely connects with everything else aside from the main conceit that they all branch off from. Fist fights, car chases, wacky attempts at costume humour, run-ins with bikies, police, Brian McKnight; while some of these elicit some laughs, it feels too loose for it all to connect together. This isn’t helped by the specifics of the time loop: Rather than the events of an entire day being repeated, Rob is stuck in a loop comprised of a single hour. An hour may seem like a lot of time, but considering what ends up taking place in each loops both on and off-screen, combined with how the film doesn’t much attention to continuity between loops, it’s not enough to make what we are seeing make sense. The core notion of a wedding being so important that it takes practice to make right, playing into how Rob lives life by the seat of his non-existent pants and needing time to get his shit together, is solid but it is far from delivered upon by film’s end.


All in all, this is easily the most competent film Michael Tiddes has ever made. The acting works as far as accurate casting, even for Marlon as the hapless romantic lead, the production values are good and it even managed to get a few unrepentant laughs out of me; this is far more than Fifty Shades Of Black and A Haunted House could even hope to accomplish. However, we’re still dealing with Marlon’s sense of humour, which often registers as trying way too hard to connect with the audience, and the mechanics of the time loop make buying into most of what we’re seeing a little difficult to reconcile. There’s only so much editing can do to hide the fact that, even more so than a lot of other films with this same gimmick, we’re just watching the same shit happen over and over again. While its current rating isn’t as accurate in terms of this being one of the worst films ever (it honestly doesn’t even reach the ballpark for that), it is accurate in how little merit the film has as a whole. Time loops, romance, awkward comedy, learning from one’s mistakes, Regina Hall; I’ve seen all of these things attached to far better films this year alone. It’s worse than A Dog's Purpose, whose purpose may be insanely suspect but at least it has a purpose: Making the audience weepy over cute doggies. This film is so muddled and lacking in focus that it doesn’t even get that far. However, as underwhelming as this is, it’s still an appreciated improvement over the director and lead actor’s past work. Annabelle: Creation, while also a step-up from its predecessor, was even more forgettable and lacking in a reason to exist, outside of box office bucks.

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