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Film Review: ‘Ibiza’

Three great female comedians plus EDM plus ecstasy don't make much of a plot, but this shaggy comedy is a showcase for its leads.

Director:
Alex Richanbach
With:
Gillian Jacobs, Vanessa Bayer, Phoebe Robinson, Richard Madden, Michaela Watkins, Jordi Mollà.
Release Date:
May 25, 2018

1 hour 44 min.

In F-rated Netflix comedy “Ibiza,” best friends Harper (Gillian Jacobs), Nikki (Vanessa Bayer) and Leah (Phoebe Robinson) have ditched Manhattan for a wild weekend in Spain where they’ll be welcomed with the 10 words every girl wants to hear: “Please serve yourself with food, drinks, and eye-opening sexual experiences.” That greeting is courtesy of wealthy mansion-owner Hernando (Jordi Mollà), one of a soccer-team’s worth of suitors vying to take the Americans to bed. Men come and go with a breezy freedom, not the manifest destiny of ordinary romantic comedies. Except for Harper’s laser-focus on a Scottish DJ named Leo (Richard Madden, with a crinkled forehead and sensitive swoop of hair) who inspires her to re-route their vacation from Barcelona to eponymous party island, where she hopes to make stoned eyes at him across a nightclub as the EDM beat pumps like her heart.

“Some people land on the moon, others cure diseases, you smash this DJ,” cheers Robinson. The ladies are down for this low-stakes adventure, and low-expectancy audiences won’t hate tagging along. “Ibiza” is a junk-food movie, the equivalent of empanadas and ranch dressing — which, yes, the ladies do order while intoxicated. Loose-kneed, sloppy, and powered by charisma, this hangout flick doesn’t just embrace gross-out girl comedy cliches, it sticks Jacobs in the air roof of a limousine screaming, “Whooo! I am a total cliché right now and I don’t f–king care!”

Director Alex Richanbach and writer Lauryn Kahn have partnered before on comedy sketches for Funny or Die. Their first feature feels delighted to take up more space than the plot deserves — in terms of narrative complexity, “Ibiza” makes “Girls Trip” look like “Inception” — yet, the audience gets a contact high watching the script take literally random detours, linger over rave sequences, and rank the topless breasts at the beach into absurdist categories like “Rihanna” and “Daniel Craig.” Meanwhile, the three comedians babble a stream of “yaaaas queens,” nervous voicemails, and half-muttered jokes, most of which work. Bayer in particular has a charming way of letting her thoughts float away like vapor, while Robinson’s one-liners verge on surreal. (On old European men in Speedos, Robinson squeals, “It’s vintage!”)

Of the three heroines, Jacobs’ Harper has what passes for a character arc. Back home, where the film opens to the wearisome needle-drop of “New York, New York,” she’s a low-tier publicist hemmed in by subway man-spreaders and a loathsome boss (Michaela Watkins). Even her friends Nikki and Leah push her around, inviting themselves on her quick work trip to land a Spanish client who wants to flog his sangria. Perhaps abroad Harper can discover her inner club goddess. But before that can happen, the film launches into existence with the enthusiasm of someone forcing you to watch their travelogue. There’s shots, sunburns, and selfies, plus airport Cinnabons, weed-dealing taxis, and a drawn-out bit where Nikki and Leah download a black-light app to check the cleanliness of their hotel room and wind up shrieking in a corner.

All of those gags add up to less than Bayer mispronouncing the word “yacht” (hers sounds like “yack-tuh”). “Ibiza” is the “Saturday Night Live” veteran’s proof that she can carry her own comedy. She continually rescues this one from edge of restlessness, while relative newcomer Robinson, co-host of the hit podcast “2 Dope Queens,” flexes her own muscles. Though Jacobs is saddled with the film’s emotional storyline, which it, too, seems impatient to get through, down to an ending that caps the film off with a sarcastic snort at its own big revelations, she’s a gifted performer. Here, some of her best moments are non-verbal: her giant eyes under the disco lights, her crooked grin when the DJ drags her backstage, and a casual glimpse of Harper high on hashish winking at the moon. In those shots, “Ibiza” exists without irony, a feat for a film that thrives on self-mocking awkwardness. “We’re dancing on the table and stuff!” hoots Bayer, “I totally get it now!” Fine, they win. Raise a glass.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Ibiza'

Reviewed online, Los Angeles, May 23, 2018. Running time: 104 MIN.

Production: A Netflix release and presentation of a Gary Sanchez, Good Universe production. Producers: Will Ferrell, Nathan Kahane, Adam McKay, Kevin Messick, Erin Westerman. Executive producers: Kelli Konop, Lauryn Kahn.

Crew: Director: Alex Richanbach. Screenplay: Lauryn Kahn. Camera (color): Daniel Moder. Editor: Josh Salzberg. Music: Jeff Morrow.

With: Gillian Jacobs, Vanessa Bayer, Phoebe Robinson, Richard Madden, Michaela Watkins, Jordi Mollà.

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