I’ll admit it, I’m a fan of Adam Sandler and his weird group of comedian buddies. That includes David Spade, Allen Covert, and… well Rob Schneider has by far the worst filmography of the group. But when Schneider is just playing a bit part I can even tolerate him. So when The Wrong Missy was released, starring David Spade in a hilariously delusional “ladies man” role, I knew I would watch it, quality be-damned.
The film is in the vein of screwball comedies like Along Came Polly (2004), in which a hapless risk-averse guy meets a sex-obsessed “crazy” girl. This occurs when Tim Morris (Spade, and God is ‘Tim Morris’ a boring name!) goes on a blind date with Missy (Lauren Lapkus). Needless to say, things go horribly as Missy gets Tim into confrontations with other guys, brings a knife into a restaurant, and threatens every sensibility of Tim’s conservative attitude. It becomes obvious quite early on how this dopey premise can work – Lapkus is amazing. Her character is supposed to be initially unsavory, but she’s too likeable for this to be the case. She pitches a perfect game in terms of nailing the frantic energy this character requires, something that becomes apparent when we see Missy slide under a bathroom stall to catch a fleeing Tim.
Tim is horrified by Missy, and quickly breaks off communication with her. After a brief fling with a woman who is more his speed, Tim decides to invite her on a company trip. But the dummy texts the wrong girl, and thus it’s Missy who shows up on the plane as Tim’s date. Like, how to you mess this up? You’re not ordering on Grub Hub, you’re making a move that will decide who you have sex with on vacation for the next two weeks.
As a result of his oversight, Tim has to balance a romance with a woman he is not into while trying to impress his boss in hopes of gaining a promotion. All the while, the trip introduces us to a plethora of goofballs, including Rob Schneider as a bizarre boat captain. These Happy Madison cameos are so routine at this point, that I barely noticed Schneider when he was first introduced. But his introduction leads to one of the film’s highlights when, in the wildest movie moment of the year, Rob Schneider gets into a fistfight with a great white shark and wins. No, I am not making that up nor am I exaggerating.
It’s this middle portion of the film where most of the laughs take place, where the antics of Missy and the various characters we meet during the vacation take center stage. It’s the type of toilet humor you’d expect from the Happy Madison guys, an acquired taste if you’re into it. Despite the low-brow comedy, the film does stumble upon a few funny gags, including one moment where Missy wants Tim to role-play as Simon Cowell, of all people, during sex.
The problem here isn’t the humor; not everything lands, but the film is funny enough for what is essentially a B-movie comedy. Rather, the issue stems from whether Tim is an interesting protagonist. He seems to be an awful fit with the zanier antics of the supporting cast. Granted, Spade is playing the straight man here. In addition, his dry personality is part of a larger character arc. But that doesn’t excuse the fact he’s mostly just an uninteresting character. There are conservative characters that still add to the humor of the film, such as Ted Stroehmann in There’s Something About Mary (1998). In that film, the protagonist’s reactions to every bizarre occurrence are crucial to the jokes landing, as well as building empathy for the main character. But Tim never hits that stride as a relatable hero who we simultaneously cringe/laugh at while watching him endure unspeakable circumstances. There’s a different, more ironic version of this movie, where Spade’s unbelievability in the role is played up for laughs. If we’re allowed to laugh at how ridiculous and out of place he seems in this role, that would help build empathy.
That empathy is crucial when you consider the predicament Tim finds himself in – several attractive women who are inexplicably obsessed with him. This includes Missy, as well as Tim’s would-be date before he texted the wrong number. But there’s also a 3rd love interest, his ex-wife Julia (Sarah Chalke). All 3 seem willing to sleep with him on a moment’s notice, yet none of it seems plausible without making Tim a more appealing character. What makes it more bizarre is that Tim never is taken aback by their eagerness to date him – the irrational confidence from David Spade going after these woman that seem out of his league is akin to Jerry Ferrara trying to dunk on Lebron.
In the end, The Wrong Missy ends how you probably think it will, but the journey to get there isn’t without entertainment. It’s a comedy that’s hitting the bottom of the barrel, but does have it’s laughs and is shepherded by a fantastic performance from Lapkus. The problem is, the story isn’t nearly well-rounded enough to capitalize on the talent of it’s cast. There are moments of genuine fun, but it ultimately seems content to be something viewers have on in the background while they do laundry or play Animal Crossing. If that’s what you aim for, that’s where you’ll land.