For many, Groundhog Day qualifies as a near-perfect comedy. Apparently, though, there are some highly motivated people out there who think it’d be a whole lot funnier if the guy stuck in the endless time loop were constantly running around with his bare ass exposed and his hands covering his junk. Back in 2000, Swedish brothers Mårten and Torkel Knutsson tested this theory with their film Naken, in which protagonist Anders relives the same hour leading up to his wedding, over and over, waking up nude in an elevator each time the loop resets. Nobody liked Naken much, but Marlon Wayans seems to have decided that the problem lay in the execution, not in the conception—and to have further decided that he and director Michael Tiddes, with whom he’d previously collaborated on the critically reviled A Haunted House and Fifty Shades Of Black, could succeed where the Swedes had failed. They predictably did not, but let’s place the blame where it squarely belongs: on the moronic premise. Groundhog Day but he’s naked? Why?
Naked wastes little time in getting Wayans out of his clothes. His character, Rob, goes out drinking the night before he’s due to wed Megan (Regina Hall), then awakens alone in a broken hotel elevator, with nothing on and no memory of what happened. Quickly freed into a lobby of amused and aghast onlookers, Rob spends the next hour frantically trying to get back to his room—at another hotel across town—and into his tux, as he’s already late for the wedding. Every time the church bell sounds, however, he’s instantaneously zipped back to the elevator, forced to start over from buck naked zero. To make matters worse, he also has to deal with Megan’s disapproving father (Dennis Haysbert), who thinks Rob isn’t good enough for her, and with her obscenely rich, ultra-smug ex (Scott Foley), who’s sure that he is. There’s even a mystery about who put Rob in the elevator, though it has no bearing on the time loop.
In theory, resetting that loop hourly rather than daily provides comic opportunities that are distinct from Groundhog Day’s; as the film progresses, and our hero cycles through those 60 minutes perhaps thousands of times—like Bill Murray’s Phil, Rob eventually becomes more or less omniscient, able to predict every action to the millisecond—he has to cram more and more activity into that brief window, hoping to say “I do” before the bell chimes and he’s whisked back to the elevator yet again. Unfortunately, Naked is so tickled by the very idea of public nudity (XY division—in movies with a reductive understanding of gender, which is most of them, nude women are invariably sexy, while nude men are reliably ridiculous) that it squanders much of its energy on Rob’s efforts to find clothes. Once he finally moves past that initial challenge and starts getting to the church, things pick up a bit, but there’s still precious little of the clockwork ingenuity that this pilfered premise demands. Instead, Rob randomly encounters Brian McKnight (while naked) and helps him write a song—silly stuff like that.
Also, why is this story even happening? Murray’s Phil is a self-absorbed jerk who has to relive February 2 until he learns compassion (which takes him multiple lifetimes). By contrast, it’s not even remotely clear for most of Naked just what the universe is trying to teach Rob by forcing him to constantly repeat the same hour. His sin is ultimately revealed as insufficient ambition, but good luck determining the causal link between this supernatural ordeal and the climactic decision to accept a job that he’d turned down in the opening scene. That’s right—Rob is going through this hell because he liked being a substitute teacher twice a week and didn’t want to take a full-time position. And that would have made him a terrible husband, it seems. Or something. Maybe the idea is that he couldn’t commit to his profession, so how could he possibly commit to Megan? But who cares? He’s naked, ha ha!