Tyler Spindel’s “The Wrong Missy” isn’t without a few charms, as it builds its meandering story around an ever-growing coterie of misunderstandings and the inevitable tragedy they inspire (comedy!). But the film’s obsession with regularly picking the dumbest, meanest option ensures even its strengths will be buried under a pile of crap (or, more appropriately in the context of the film, a pile of vomit and fisherman’s chum). A gross-out comedy masquerading only in the flimsiest sense as a romance, “The Wrong Missy” still knows its way around genre convention, but Spindel and company seem compelled to use those expectations to tee up cruel gags that do little to advance the film’s plot or central romance.
It’s a mix-up from the start — “a blind date blunder!” one character laughs — when well-meaning Tim (David Spade) mistakenly believes he’s saving his blind date from a ‘roid-chomping muscleman who can’t take a hint. Tim is a nice enough guy (it’s a saving grace for Spade and the film that the character’s not secretly skeevy), and when he gets a text from his date telling him she’s at the bar and wearing blue and this weirdo will not stop talking to her, he swoops in for the save. The twist will be a prescient one: That’s not his date! It’s all a deranged trick cooked up by his real one, Melissa (“everyone calls me Missy!”), who’s sitting a few seats away and enjoying the show as Tim gets his ass handed to him for trying to break up a pair of strangers.
Conceived entirely on misunderstandings and mishaps and Tim’s (mostly) good nature and the absolutely unhinged, norm-smashing mania of Missy (Lauren Lapkus), “The Wrong Missy” pinballs from hints of actual sweetness into pitch-black horror. Tim is looking for a nice girl after his ex-fiancee left him (one of many plot points never explained and only used to stir up weak drama), while Missy is insane and oddly adept at turning regular situations into pure nightmare. What could possibly happen when these two are thrown together?
The answer, of course, is love. This is still a rom-com (though with precious little “rom” and only scattered “com”), even if it’s one obsessed with humiliating both of its leads until there’s nothing left for them but each other. After nearly getting Tim killed at the expense of a bad joke (perhaps “The Wrong Missy” is more self-aware than initially suspected?), Missy only continues to pour on the insanity. Lapkus is funny enough (and committed enough) to make both sides of Missy’s nutty personality work, as she’s both the quirky sweetheart who loves people and excels at off-beat pursuits, as well as the unhinged freak who (quite rightly) sends Tim running scared.
But the script, from Chris Pappas and Kevin Barnett (who previously wrote “The Do-Over,” another Netflix comedy starring Spade), doesn’t grant its star the grace or understanding to ever marry those two sides of her outsized personality. Lapkus is instead tasked with one or the other — the sweet weirdo, the pigtail-sucking freak — and never the twain shall meet. No wonder Tim heaves himself out of a bathroom window to get away from her.
Three months later, Tim’s rocky road to romance leads him to the lovely Melissa (not another “Missy”), played by a delightful Molly Sims. The pair meet-cute at an airport, and while they enjoy limited time together, hapless Tim thinks he’s finally found a winner. Of course he’ll invite her on his very, very, very important company retreat in Hawaii, as encouraged by his highly inappropriate buddy in HR (Nick Swardson, being very Nick Swardson, which means playing drunk and crass and sometimes getting some real laughs out of it). He texts Melissa, she says yes, and it’s off the races. You can guess which Melissa (or is that “Missy”?) shows up on the plane to Hawaii.
Enter still more plot, mostly involving Tim’s play to get a promotion, Rob Schneider as a fingerless shark guide, and at least one sequence that some could interpret as depicting a rape for laughs (it will earn few of them). Saddled with Missy (Lapkus, again, made to swing from unhinged freak to charming possible paramour at whim), Tim tries to stave off the impending disasters that form the film’s entire thematic makeup, but only finding more mayhem. In between bizarre diversions, including an entire subplot dedicated to the state of Tim’s boss’ marriage and a sequence involving shadow puppets, Tim and Missy occasionally remember to act like real people (and the film remembers to act like a rom-com).
That’s about when the plot goes wild, from a threesome subplot to a minor character to a lemon out of their butt, to a shark attack brought on by puke. Such is the road to romance in “The Wrong Missy.” It’s messy and gross, mean and directionless, and only briefly interested in being at all sweet. Loving might not be wrong, but under these conditions, it’s certainly not right.
“The Wrong Missy” is available to stream on Netflix today, Wednesday, May 13.