Director: Jake Szymanski
Cast: Daniel Doheny, Geraldine Viswanathan, Sadie Calvano
Watch The Package online in the UK: Netflix UK
Dick jokes are a mainstay of movie comedy, especially since American Pie established the gross-out teen flick as a commercially successful sub genre. In 2018, Netflix takes the idea to its logical extreme with The Package, a comedy that is one long dick joke, right down to its euphemistic title. From the moment we see a mother chopping a suggestively shaped aubergine on a kitchen counter, director Jake Szymanski sets the tone firmly to puerile and the dial doesn’t move from there.
The premise pricks at something subversively graphic, as we see a group of kids go camping. What starts as a boys’ trip for Donnie (Luke Spencer Roberts) and Jeremy (Eduardo Franco), as they welcome back Sean (Daniel Doheny) from a term in Germany, soon gets some unexpected baggage as Jeremy’s sister, Becky (Geraldine Viswanathan), breaks up with her boyfriend and tags along with her friend, Sarah (Sadie Calvano). Sean, we quickly learn, has long had a crush on Becky, while Sarah, we later discover, used to date Donnie. Before you can say “complicated”, Jeremy goes off to pee on their first night in the woods and, after playing around with his switchblade knife, ends up slicing his own penis off.
What ensues is a 90-minute sprint to get to the hospital so that his member can be re-attached to the rest of his body, before it shrivels up and dies, like a flower without water. That comparison is made by a sarcastic nurse in the hospital, who follows it up with a Beauty and the Beast gag that showcases the film’s likeable knack for unexpected pop culture references. But unfortunately, that wit soon loses its novelty, as the script (by Matt Mider and Kevin Burrows) mostly strings together dialogue and scenarios that are meant to be edgy, but mostly wind up repetitive. Donnie’s failure to grow a moustache and a mix-up involving a fake ID only recall the likes of Superbad from a generation ago.
The cast do well with what they have, with Doheny and Viswanathan particularly impressing. Doheny has a natural comic timing, particularly when it comes to one painful slapstick stunt, while Viswanathan balances innocent affection with anger, sharp delivery and sincerity. As things escalate, there’s an occasionally amusing audacity to the film’s willingness to repeat the same explicit joke twice within 10 minutes, and director Jake Szymanski does a decent job of making the pace feel like it’s accelerating, as the kids run out of time for the all-important reunion. But that energy can’t elevate the screenplay above its base level humour, and the script doesn’t take advantage of Netflix’s creative freedom to really exploit that one-note premise.
The Package arrives on Netflix after Set It Up and The Kissing Booth, which underscores the streaming giant’s focus on attracting teen eyeballs this summer. But while both of those benefit from largely playing by the rules, The Package’s positioning of its raunchy subject matter makes its lack of shock or surprise a disappointment – it simply ends up too conventional to be cool.
The Package is available on Netflix UK, as part of £7.99 monthly subscription.