Dir.: Michael Tiddes
I never saw the Haunted House films that director/actor combo Tiddes and Marlon Wayans made. I did, however, watch Fifty Shades of Black last year, which ended up on my worst films of the year list. That film was enough to completely sour me on the duo, and I feared the possibility of having to watch another one for review purposes, but here we are. Not content to lay my cinematic masochism to rest, my morbid curiosity got the better of me, as I opened Netflix after seeing the solid Annabelle: Creation and figured, hey, this would be a good one to review, right? I felt like it was time once again for me to let loose the review dragon after my rageful review of The Dark Tower several days ago. After all, this pair had never before made a movie that could in any form or fashion be construed as servicable, so why would they now put forth a quality effort?
Well, I'm here to say that I'm stunned...because this film is...actually kind of decent.
The crazy thing about Naked isn't the fact that it's a direct-to-streaming Netflix film, a first for Tiddes and Wayans, nor is it the admittedly silly but enjoyably committed premise. The crazy thing is that this is a film that actually follows a consistent narrative structure, with three acts, and it delivers on addressing a coherent, if simple, theme throughout, with actual character development and closure in the lead performance. This is not to say that this film shows exemplary craftsmanship - it just shows that, unlike the last few films they have made, this duo can deliver on a premise and execute it in a fashion that could be considered a competent film. The film explores through a Groundhog Day-inspired scenario (and increasingly popular trend in film lately) the silly journey of a man who wakes up naked in an elevator on his wedding day. Though this is the premise, the film really tells the story of a man who must find it within himself to commit to his lady and to realize that marriage is an everyday struggle that must be met with sincerity and perseverance.
Wayans remains the singular driving force behind the narrative, playing awfully straight for his usual wacky antics. He does dive into the familiar Wayans territory of high pitched screaming and wide-eyed comedy hysteria on occasion, but he also has some genuine serious moments as well, and while he doesn't quite nail a performance as dramatically impactful like he did in Requiem For a Dream, Naked shows his most humanistic, empathetic performance in several years. The supporting cast, particularly Regina Hall and Dennis Haysbert, play off of Wayans pretty well, but the film remains by and large Wayans' comedic exercise. The film's performances never feel jarring or out of tone with the events onscreen like some of Wayans' other guiltily haphazard efforts, and while the film's acting is not particularly strong, it is never offensively bad.
Whether it be by virtue of being simply a Netflix original, or by the seemingly concerted effort that Tiddes put far more effort in this film here than in past works, the quality jump from his past films in Naked is a welcome one. It's still not a great film - far from it - but it does manage to succeed more than it fails. Perhaps Wayans could dial his insane, Bugs Bunny-style wackiness a little bit more in future films. Unfortunately, like Adam Sandler, Wayans typically sticks to his routine. Naked succeeds by balancing its laughs with actual narrative material and characters that don't feel like cartoon people, and it carries out its premise to meager fruition. If you're bored and you have some time to kill, this isn't the worst use of it. It's worth a stream.