Director: Michael Tiddes
Cast: Marlon Wayans, Regina Hall, Dennis Haysbert
Watch Naked online in the UK: Netflix UK
Imagine Groundhog Day, but naked. That’s the premise behind Naked, a film with as much imagination as its title. It’s the kind of joke that might work as a brief skit between friends, but when that joke revolves around it being told over and over again for 90 minutes, it soon gets old.
Marlon Wayans plays Rob, a man who’s about to marry up into the family of Megan (Regina Hall), but before he can walk down the aisle, he finds himself waking up in an elevator. In the wrong hotel. On the other side of town. Without his clothes on. The real trouble, though, begins when he tries to get to the church on time, only to wake up once again in an elevator. In the wrong hotel. On the other side of town. Without his clothes on. Did that sentence get any funnier the second time you read it? That’s the problem with Naked in a nutshell – it only really has one joke.
There are attempts at others along the way, but they’re few and far between, relying on a cameo from songwriter Brian McKnight and a disapproving father-in-law (Dennis Haysbert) to pad out the obstacles between Rob and his wedding. The rest hinges upon the awkwardness that underlies every interaction he has, on account of the fact that he’s 100 per cent nude. A group of onlookers are shocked when the lift doors open. A crowd of parade-watchers are stunned when he flees the hotel doors. Brian McKnight is weirded out when an unclad dude crashes his quiet time by the swimming pool. And so on and so forth.
If any of Groundhog Day’s jokes were repetitive, they were balanced out by the non-stop character development occurring in the background: Bill Murray’s jaded weatherman, Phil, had to learn to be a better man to break his cycle. What Rob learns, on the other hand, isn’t really clear. Is it to appreciate his partner more? To have more ambition in his career as a teacher? It’s a bit of both, or maybe neither – and that lack of clear direction gives us little reason to care about his endlessly looping existence.
There are moments where Rob learns small lessons, such as how to get to the church quickly (by throwing himself in front of cars to hitch a ride in an ambulance) or how to dodge the punches thrown at him in a fight with Megan’s rich ex, who wants to marry her himself. The latter is genuinely funny, as it combines a satisfying glimpse of character growth with Wayans’ physical comic timing. But those few set pieces aside and this is a serviceable slog from A to A to A to A to B, which isn’t truly terrible but never manages to be any better than mediocre.
It’s hard to shake the disappointing feeling that, like Wayans, the whole cast are better than this, with Hall, in particular, given nothing to do. The result is an underwhelming, unoriginal and unengaging rehash of a formula that’s missed half the variables. To compare it repeatedly to Groundhog Day would seem unfair, were it not for the fact that the movie does it so openly itself. If that’s all it takes to get a Netflix original made, perhaps director Michael Tiddes and Wayans can start a whole franchise of them. Harry Potter, but with a naked Voldemort who has nowhere to store his wand. The Lord of the Rings, but with Gandalf in his wizard undies, so he’s banned from entering Riverdell. Die Hard, but without Hans Gruber’s sharp suits – or, indeed, anything else. We’d rather watch any of those than this.
Naked is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.49 monthly subscription.