Back in 2014, long before he was redeemed in cinephiles’ eyes by the anxiety-inducing frenzy of Uncut Gems, Adam Sandler admitted that he absolutely takes roles based on whether or not there’s a free vacation involved. It might not be a great system for the critics who then have to watch and review the results of said trips, but be honest—if you had the opportunity to take a job that not only paid well, but came with a luxurious stay at a five-star resort, you’d at least think about it, right? With that in mind, let’s not judge SNL’s Nasim Pedrad too harshly for taking the lead role in Desperados, a film that spends its 105 overlong and painfully predictable minutes burning through the goodwill Netflix has built up with its recent string of critically acclaimed romantic comedies. Still, the Mexican resort where much of the action takes place looks really nice.
Pedrad stars as Wesley, a woman in her early 30s whose desperation to settle down and raise some kids is in direct conflict with her complete inability to get her shit together. As in many of your more generic rom-coms, Desperados takes place in a world where money is real but the bill collectors never quite come knocking. Friendships are lifelong and intensely loyal, but no one seems to actually like each other all that much. And if anyone ever said what they meant, the plot would stall out in the first five minutes. In this case, after getting knocked out cold on the sidewalk outside of an L.A. taco joint, Wesley wakes up and finds herself gazing into the hunky eyes of Jared (Robbie Amell), a sports agent who Wesley decides is the love of her life because a) he’s hot and b) he wants to have a family, too.
The only problem is, Wesley puts on an affected “cool girl” persona when she’s around Jared, petrified that her real personality will scare him off. If your response to reading that sentence is to think, “well, that’s not a very good long-term strategy,” then congratulations—you’re already an hour ahead of this movie. In the interim, Wesley drunkenly sends Jared a hurtful email after he disappears for five days, thinking he’s ghosted her. But in another good old-fashioned bit of concussion-based rom-com plotting, it turns out he was actually in a medically induced coma after getting into a car accident in Cabo San Lucas. And to pile convenience on top of coincidence, his doctors have ordered him to stay off of his phone and rest. So Wesley rallies her best friends Kaylie (Sarah Burns) and Brooke (Anna Camp)—each of whom happens to be going through a personal crisis of her own, not that Wesley notices or cares—and takes off for Mexico, with the intention of breaking into Jared’s room at a plush resort in order to delete the email.
That’s a lot for the first act of a comedy, and it doesn’t even account for the character of Sean (Lamorne Morris), the blind date Wesley was fleeing when she met Jared, who also just happens to be vacationing at that same resort—another contrived plot point that goes exactly where you think it will. Part of that does come down to Morris and Pedrad’s romantic chemistry, which is obvious from the moment they first encounter each other on screen. (The two played love interests on New Girl for a few seasons.) In fact, the cast as a whole persists mightily throughout this shambling, frustrating, overplotted film, whose humor never rises above a cheap and vulgar gag where a dolphin ejaculates in Wesley’s mouth. No funnier is a recurring bit where wacky circumstances make it look like she’s trying to seduce a 12-year-old boy.
And the characters are no more realistic than the plot, proceeding from the clichéd assumption that getting married and bearing a biological child is the pinnacle of female achievement. (The men’s motivations are similarly simplistic, but men are not the target audience for this film.) Later on in the movie, Kaylie and Brooke finally find the courage to stand up to Wesley and her narcissistic self-absorption, but Desperados isn’t nuanced enough to really know what to do with this sudden injection of realism. And so it just hangs there, acknowledging that, yeah, someone who acted the way Wesley does in this movie probably would have trouble keeping friends in real life. But don’t let that ruin your vacation or anything.