Netflix UK film review: Naked
Time travel tropes6
Matthew Turner | On 25, Jul 2019Reading time: 3 mins
Director: Michael Tiddes
Cast: Marlon Wayans, Regina Hall, Dennis Haysbert
Watch Naked online in the UK: Netflix UK
Wondering how to fill the time travel gap now that Travelers and Timeless have been cancelled? Then transport yourself no further than Time Travel Thursdays, our column devoted to time travel movies on Netflix. It’s on Thursdays.
Directed by Michael Tiddes, Naked is a Netflix Original remake of Naken, a Swedish comedy from 2000 that was heavily inspired by Groundhog Day. Unfortunately, despite a premise that’s ripe with potential, Naked ultimately lacks the imagination to do anything interesting or funny with the story.
Marlon Wayans stars as Rob Anderson, a substitute teacher who’s about to get married to his physician fiancée Megan Swope (Regina Hall), despite the obvious disapproval of her high-powered businessman father, Reginald (Dennis Haysbert). However, after a night out with best man Benny (J.T. Jackson), Rob wakes up naked in an elevator, miles from the venue with just an hour to go before the wedding. When he’s jailed for streaking, he suddenly finds himself naked in the elevator again and realises he’s trapped in a time-loop, forced to live out that same hour over and over until he gets it right.
No one actually name-checks Groundhog Day in Naked, so you have to assume that either none of the characters in the movie saw it (like Tree in Happy Death Day) or it’s set in a universe where Groundhog Day never got made. Either way, if you’ve seen Groundhog Day, it’s impossible to watch Naked without seeing it as a parade of missed opportunities for both laughs and actual emotion.
In terms of its time travel mechanics, Naked opts for a quasi-religious explanation, in that the time-loop is somehow linked to the chiming of the church bells and Rob effectively attributes it to “God” at one point. However, the film never really sticks to its own rules, with the bells sounding whenever narratively (or comedically) convenient, rather than strictly at the end of the allotted hour.
As for the use of the conceit itself, there are one or two amusing ideas, such as the fact that Rob figures out that the best way to get to the church on time is to get there by ambulance, so he keeps getting hit by cars and so on. Similarly, the film’s best sequence has him learning how to win a fight by accurately predicting all his opponent’s moves, because he’s been through the same fight so many times.
The one thing the film adds to the Groundhog Day concept is the idea of a mystery that needs to be solved – in this case, the question of how Rob ended up naked in the lift in the first place. Sadly, the script is too unfocused to do that idea any real justice, treating it as an afterthought once Rob has spent hours sorting the rings, the vows and a suit.
The biggest problem is that Wayans being naked in a lift (and then in the hotel and the street afterwards) seems to be the film’s only joke. Certainly, the film is over-reliant on Wayans gurning and mugging and none of the other gags land at all. It also doesn’t help that Rob is something of an idiot who doesn’t seem to be able to read a room or realise that he’s actually making things worse.
Ultimately, this is a disappointing comedy that only intermittently delivers on its time travel premise. The mash-up of wedding comedy and time loop concept might have looked good on paper, but in practice it’s a bit of a wash-out.
Naked is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £8.99 monthly subscription.