Netflix Ibiza review: Richard Madden's DJ Leo is hot, but as a drug-addled vacation romp the film falls flat
In some rare moments, when the girls are left on their own, 'Ibiza' proves to be a rib-tickler. Case in point, the semen-laden scene of the hotel room under the black light.
At its best, Netflix's 'Ibiza' is a female-led vacation romp best enjoyed through the spectacle of frivolity. Beginning with the apparently serious issues of a "30-something" singleton, leading the not-so-destitute New York life, this flagbearer of a summer comedy takes a sudden turn, for the best, when our leading lady is packed and parceled to Barcelona.
In the Spanish paradise, one would expect Gillian Jacobs' (best known for her appearance in 'Love' and 'Community') Harper to have a meet-cute with a Greek god of some sorts, and that is exactly what happens.
Irrevocably (and almost like an ode to every rom-com classic), the suddenly-spirited, YOLO-professing central character falls in love with a globe-trotting DJ - possibly the best part about the Alex Richanbach-directed flick - starring Richard Madden (aka Rob Stark from Game of Thrones). And what follows next is a series of ecstasy-fueled, sex-addled misadventures masquerading on the big screen as a girls-trip-comedy.
'Ibiza' fails to impress with the comic archetypes on multiple levels, to say the least. But here's what the film got right - its character casting. As a mildly ambitious PR professional, Harper might come across as appealing to the late twenties crowd. While her "Yuuus-chanting" best friends, Nikki (Vanessa Bayer) and Leah (Phoebe Robinson) make for an appreciable (if not perfect) foil to Jacobs' uptight New Yorker.
After sulking over her suggestively monotonous job for four years, and showing serious contempt for her germophobe boss (watch out for the rib-tickling moments with Michaela Watkins' Sarah), Harper finds herself at the receiving end of a business proposition, which anyone else in her position would jump into. She is supposed to be jetting down to the picturesque Barcelona to close a deal with a Sangria maker - prospects that dreams are made of.
Elated by the opportunity at hand, Harper despite her better judgment, decides to pack her two buddies as well for the trip. The trio, at the heart of a Spanish man-fest and in an attempt to make the most of their sojourn, does what ladies in the post-Hangover cinematic era do best, party hard without a care in the world.
From following a heartthrob of a DJ to the nightclub capital of the country, Ibiza, to taking rides with an ostensibly safe cab driver, whose presence is as justified as the plot itself - there is not a single trip-that-changes-your-life stereotype, which is given a miss.
In fact, at one point, the 90-minute-long comedy that might as well pass off as a sum collective of a girl gang's Instagram stories, delves into the uncalled-for realms of Ibiza's hippie scene. Out of nowhere, a random cabbie in one of the scenes drives these ladies to his home, apparently to feed his pet, and even more outrageously groups them up with a reckless of a creature whom he calls his niece. And throughout this duration, in order to evoke some thrills over the unknown, the plot sees this unsuspecting group of women hopping from one ride to another, indulging in a great deal of debauchery in the process.
Remember the three best men and a groom, who embarked on a road trip right before the big day in the Bradley Cooper, Zachary Galifianakis, Ed Helms-starring The Hangover series; Ibiza is basically set in the same framework, minus the seriousness of the consequences and of course wild animals locked in the bathroom.
The work-trip-gone-wild gang ultimately, after many detours and indulgences, lands at a swanky Ibiza party-destination where the man of the hour, DJ Leo happens to be playing for the night. With his thick European accent and even thicker biceps, Madden unsurprisingly works his way into the hearts (both ours and Harper's) but when it comes to the romantic tensions, his foreigner charm does little to justify the progress of the storyline.
Without a doubt, he is an absolute treat for the eyes. Even more, when in the post-party scenario, a shirtless Madden slips into the hot-tub for some heart-to-heart talk with his lady love, replete with more kissing, love-making and champagne drinking.
The night of romp ends with a rude awakening with Harper tracing her way back to reality and guilty viewers being unceremoniously recalled off the EDM-blaring journey. What starts off as a vacation movie, by the end, appears to be hanging by the hem of three moderately-developed characters. With the only saving grace being the musical bonanza that 'Ibiza' quite successfully scores itself as.
What makes Harper, a New Yorker clearly troubled by the mundane urban suddenly change course and embrace spontaneity in the manners of a true wild child? And how are her BFFs - one dentist and other a freelancer - able to afford the cost and time for tugging along on luxurious vacations across continents? And how does self-discovery with an eye-candy from the night-club even work in a practical setting?
Off the top of my head, these are just a few pressing questions. But then again, looking for reason and logic in a Hollywood flick is the most pointless exercise. Instead of establishing the background, character flaws, and purpose of the journey, screenwriter Lauryn Kahn's (who went from being an assistant to this apple of the eye for Will Ferrell and his producing partner, Adam McKay) 'Ibiza' deals with the trivialities. The silly somethings that do not even account for the bigger, life-altering decisions taken by Harper.
Amidst all the idiosyncratic involvement of this crazy-vacay comedy, the one thing that stands out and quite prominently is, Bayer and her effortless comic timing. As the hapless Nikki, the SNL alum is believable and even funny in her solo moments. Case in point, the scene where she woos a Spanish hunk with a sunburnt face or the one after that night filled with debauchery in Barcelona.
The film makes a difficult case for its BFFs for life part of the story, but there's a natural, light-hearted flow to the course of events. And in some of the rare moments, when the girls are left on their own, 'Ibiza' proves it can be a rib-tickler as well, like that semen-laden glimpse of the hotel room under the black light.
In defense of Netflix, this can be viewed as an attempt at jumping on the carefree women bandwagon. After all, in the light of the recent success garnered by big-name starrers like 'Bad Moms', or Scarlett Johansson's 'Rough Night', an appetite for the mature female comedies has been confirmed.
But without eyeballs-grabbing star-power and a significant crisis capable of driving the plot, this streaming-specific movie falls flat. It's amusing, frivolous, and a worthy junk-food movie and at the same time easily forgettable.
Were it not for the maddening handsomeness of Madden's DJ or Bayer's quirky-shy humor, it would even be difficult to stay glued for the 90 minutes of the shoddy comedy that is 'Ibiza'.