“The Wrong Missy” is a rom-com, but it’s really a ’90s Jim Carrey movie merged with one of those slob-goes-on-a-corporate-retreat comedies that has starred everyone from Bill Murray to Adam Sandler to Will Ferrell. Here’s what’s new about it: The hypomanic Jim Carrey figure is a woman — Missy, played by the wild-card comedian Lauren Lapkus, who in this movie is like a grenade of happy insanity tossed into the middle of every scene. Lapkus, who looks like a hellion version of Illeana Douglas, is best known for playing Susan Fischer on “Orange Is the New Black” and for one arc on “The Big Bang Theory” (she was also quite good in Zach Galifianakis’s “Between the Ferns”), and in “The Wrong Missy” she’s an antically wired, rubber-faced, this-is-your-brain-on-media satirist-anarchist.
In the hilarious opening scene, she shows up at a restaurant in Pippi Longstocking pigtails and proceeds to scare the bejesus out of her blind date, Tim, played by David Spade, who looks distinctly confused about the fact that he’s starring in a movie in which he’s the wimpy boring straight man. “The age thing doesn’t concern me!” says Missy. “What are you, 65? I know that’s a blond wig, and I don’t care.” Spade actually has a full head of hair, but in “The Wrong Missy” he wears it in an unstylish nerd coif that does look like a wig, and it counts as a rebranding. After 30 years of snark, he’s now the mild doofus who’s skewered by others.
The aggressor is Lapkus, who with her split-second frozen grins and madly italicized line readings strikes one antic attitude after the next, each served up with an irony so thick it becomes a form of Tourettic sincerity. Her face crumpling in horror when Tim orders a soda water, she says, “Ughhh, what? First chink in the armor — Mr. Perfect’s not so perfect!” A minute later she shouts across the restaurant, “Stop eye-fucking me! I’m with someone!” There have been plenty of girls-behaving-badly romps, and performers like Sarah Silverman and Tiffany Haddish know how to pull out the over-the-top stops, but “The Wrong Missy” still feels like the showcase for a new style of feminine comedy blitzkrieg.
Even back in the day, though, a little bit of Jim Carrey went a long way. As Lapkus wedges her whirling-dervish maniac spitfire into the romcom format, you become all too aware that “The Wrong Missy,” directed by Tyler Spindel from a script by Chris Pappas and Kevin Barnett, is an airless piece of fluff, a variation on the slob-vs.-snobs comedy that’s been a staple since “Caddyshack.” This functionally shot Netflix version features a handful of archetypes updated to the era of the new corporate heartlessness: Tim’s drone pal in HR (Nick Swardson), who enjoys full access not only to Tim’s email but to his entire private digital life (and is shocked that Tim would presume otherwise); Tim’s rival for a promotion, known as Barracuda (Jackie Sandler); and the new boss, Mr. Winstone (Geoff Pierson), who comes in after a merger and takes open delight in pitting his employees against each other as if they were contestants on “Survivor: Office War.”
And I haven’t even mentioned the deeply satisfying because it’s so uncontrived premise-concept! Following his disastrous blind date, Tim, at the airport, accidentally switches luggage with a stranger, whose name is also Missy (Molly Sims). They share a soda water at the bar, where they discover they’re soulmates because they’re both reading James Patterson’s new Alex Cross novel and adore Phil Collins. And she’s even a former beauty queen! But when Tim asks her to come along on his loan company’s retreat to Hawaii, the text-message invite is accidentally sent to the other Missy. Who meets him on the plane.
Lauren Lapkus may deserve her own version of “The Mask,” but in “The Wrong Missy,” which was made by Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions, she gets her own version of “That’s My Boy.” Which isn’t a terrible thing. Sandler has packaged far worse films for Netflix, and watching “The Wrong Missy” it’s easy to sit back and give in to the movie’s it-is-what-it-is-ness.
Missy — the wrong Missy, of course — is really the right Missy for Tim. And she proves her moxie in amusingly inappropriate ways: inducting him, during the flight to Hawaii, into a bargain-basement version of the mile-high club; offering disastrous psychic readings to his work colleagues (“You’re going to lose a leg in 10 years in a horrific motorcycle accident”); hypnotizing the boss into believing that Tim is his “nana”; and generally making herself into a psycho party animal in outfits that look like birthday wrapping paper. “The Wrong Missy” is a harmless dumb-meets-smart-mouth comedy that doesn’t necessarily feed your appetite for more Netflix throwaways. But it does make you want to see Lauren Lapkus’s next act.
© 2021 PMC. All rights reserved.