It’s increasingly obvious that Netflix doesn’t care what’s in their library of original content, so long as they can expand on and broaden said library. Who needs classic films and the hidden gems of cinema’s history when we can have fresh, direct-to-streaming movies like Adam Sandler’s tone-deaf western spoof “The Ridiculous Six,” the misguided fantasy/cop-drama hybrid “Bright,” or this year’s cold, dead fish of a buddy comedy “Ibiza.” Every once and while Netflix will treat us to a genuinely tasteful experience like the heart-breaking war drama, “Beasts of No Nation,” but more often then not, I scroll through my choices and see more and more dreck like “Ibiza.” Built on the dated premise that ‘female Hangover’ is still a winning hook to use in a Hollywood pitch meeting, “Ibiza” is at best an extended travelogue and at worse a silicon valley executive’s excuse for a tax write-off.
Gillian Jacobs plays Harper, a New York advertising agent who’s brimming with jittery affectation and professional neurosis. Harper’s supposedly evil boss (because the movie tells us to hate her) sends her to Barcelona to score a big deal with a client, but she decides to take her two selfish friends Nikki (Vanessa Bayer) and Leah (Phoebe Robinson) along with her, where they spend the trip dancing in clubs, popping pills and talking to hunky European guys. When Harper becomes obsessed with hooking up with a famous DJ (Richard Madden), the girls decide to move their party to the island of Ibiza. Can Harper get into the exclusive club to reconnect with her fantasy love-boat, dance all night and make it back to Spain early enough to prepare for her big meeting?
I don’t have a principled stance against an all-female comedy about girlfriends cutting lose and indulging a wild weekend getaway, but I do have a bias against hacky comedies in which the actors are tossed in front of the camera and forced to generate material on the spot because the screenwriter couldn’t be bothered to construct actual scenes. In the many sequences that meander in no discernable direction, three leads seem desperate to generate humor from the deep black void that is this movie, doing over-mannered impressions of who I assume are the most annoying people they ever met. I’ve seen Gillian Jacobs play prickly and damaged in the Netflix series “Love,” as well as cute and bubbly in the sitcom “Community,” and I’ve seen Vanessa Bayer create interesting sketch characters on Saturday Night Live. Their performances here are so severely unfunny, but if I didn’t already know better, it would have been inconceivable that these people make their living in comedy.
It’s obvious the director (Funny or Die alum Alex Richenbach) lost complete control of the shoot when over forty percent of the runtime is devoted to techno dance montages and barely connected plot points that only exist to get the characters from one location to another. The story doesn’t advance so much as it changes the setting every ten minutes. I suppose the theme here is about friendship and self-discovery, but that’s almost entirely lost when the protagonist’s journey is based on hooking up with a vacuous EDM Prince charming that we barely get to know, and her friends constantly use each other for personal gain. “Ibiza” completely lacks in anything approaching reality, humanity or anything remotely recognizable as a true human emotion.
Originally Published in the Idaho State Journal/June-2018