Review: ‘Desperados’ is a Hot Mess with a Good Message

It makes me very sad when bad movies happen to have good actors. Nasim Pedrad, a former SNL star who is highly talented in many ways, hasn’t really had her big break yet. It would seem, in theory, that landing the lead role in a comedy would be a step up from being the saving grace of Guy Ritchie’s atrocious Aladdin remake. Unfortunately, I don’t think Desperados is going to contribute much to her stardom.

Wesley (Pedrad) is an outgoing but eccentric 30-something with a Master’s degree who feels a lingering emptiness in her life, as she is unable to hold a job or a consistent relationship. She goes on a date with Sean (Lamorne Morris), a friend of her friend’s who ends the date abruptly when Wesley shares too much information about herself, leaving him uncomfortable. On her way home from that disaster, she meets Jared (Robbie Amell), a kind sports agent who saves her life when she falls after the most cliché meet cute ever, and she thinks her problems are solved. Unfortunately, he disappears for five days after they sleep together, and being desperate as she is, Wesley gets together with her two closest friends, health trend-obsessed Brooke (Anna Camp) and overstressed mom Kaylie (Sarah Burns), to drink and compose one of the nastiest emails ever written, addressed to Jared. She panics, however, after learning Jared was in a car accident on his trip to Mexico and has been stuck in a coma. Wesley talks her friends into going down there with her to find him and delete the email, leading to the bulk of the film. Better films have had worse plans.

There are many, many problems with this film,and I think the first big one is that it can’t decide what kind of tone it wants to have. While it’s trying to be an all-female version of Road Trip, it ends up evolving into a Bridesmaids-esque screwball comedy thanks to the women’s antics, and as a result the onslaught of humor is all over the place and fails to produce any memorable laughs. First-time director Lauren “LP” Palmigiano and her team are so busy trying to add all kinds of shock value – from vibrators to hard drugs to a graphic sequence involving a CGI dolphin penis slapping Wesley in the face – that they fail to make any laughs happen from said shock value. The film tries to integrate slapstick and sex jokes to make everything absurd that happens in it seem normal. But the script is just a bore, with a real lack of “comedy” from this comedy. Come on, not even a “Moby’s Dick” joke for the aforementioned dolphin? I know, it’s a whale, but it still would have worked.

The most frustrating aspect of it all, however, is that this film has no single spark of hope towards the end. The entire cast is charming and have easily made mediocre films and shows work with their presence, but they are not given much to work with here. When it backs away from the needlessly gross sex jokes, there are some wholesome moments and a nice message about appreciating the people who care about you the most. However, that is lost, and glossed over, thanks to the problematic demolition derby of “humor” within.

Just like its main character, Desperados means well despite its problems. LP can’t really be blamed for the bad script or the weak humor, and provided she’s given better material than this, I would love to see what she does in the future. We certainly need more female voices in Hollywood, especially in comedy films like this, I’d argue (and not just because this is my favorite genre). If there is any good thing that Desperados does very well – it’s giving women the chance to have voices that matter in a genre where they are usually sidelined for men. This film’s poor quality is only a sign that we can go forward from here.