Netflix's Naked Is Trying to Be the New Groundhog Day — Did It Work?
Netflix's newest original movie, Naked, is a bold comedy focusing on Rob Anderson (played by comedic actor Marlon Wayans), a well-meaning dude who finds himself repeating the same hour on his wedding day over and over. The catch? He's reliving this hour while he's butt naked, and he's got to try and make it to the chapel before he loses the love of his life, Megan (Regina Hall).
If this whole "repeating the same hour over and over" plot detail sounds familiar, that might be because it bears a striking resemblance to the classic comedy Groundhog Day, famously starring Bill Murray as curmudgeonly weatherman Phil Connors, who finds himself doomed to repeat Groundhog Day. Naked plucks the time-repetition element, ditches the existential dread and really plays up the comedic possibilities such a plot device would offer. It risks turning off fans of the original film, but trust me, if you keep an open mind, you can't go wrong with Naked.
The basic setup of Naked is pretty much Groundhog Day
All right, let's get this out of the way: Wayans is no Bill Murray. Wayans doesn't turn in a bad performance, but it's admittedly difficult to get images of Murray out of your head while watching Naked if only because the essential plot twists are the same between the films. That said, Wayans is hilarious, as expected — hello, this is the star of White Chicks, one of the greatest films of our time.
Wayans is so earnest and well-meaning as Rob, even when his character drops the ball in the film and finds himself in a weird position, that it's tough not to be charmed by Naked. He does a damn good job performing while "naked" most of the time (Wayans probably wore a modesty garment to give the illusion of nudity while not being totally nude). He delivers jokes like he's improving them: with total ease and panache. Even when he needs to play it straight, as he does when he and Hall share some of their more tender scenes, he's firing on all cylinders.
His isn't the only great performance in Naked, either. Just like Groundhog Day, Naked brings together a wide variety of great actors to make the magic happen. Hall, Scott Foley, Dennis Haysbert, Loretta Devine, Eliza Coupe and even Brian freaking McKnight all show up and bring their A game. Seriously, Devine and Foley have some of the most rib-tickling scenes wherein they're singing a lot of spiritual hymns or practicing their street-fighting skills, respectively. It's amazing.
Here's where things get dicey
OK, Naked isn't perfect. Things can get frustrating when Rob is clearly just doing something silly and time-wasting, like chilling with McKnight (who plays a version of himself in the film) or randomly meeting up with his mother at a hotel bar instead of fighting his way to the church where he's supposed to marry Megan. It's a stretch of logic, and it's during some of these random diversions that the energy falters. And don't even get me started on the very odd twist wherein Rob talks with a sex worker as it relates to his ending up naked in an elevator on his wedding day. Yikes, that is some bad storytelling.
But it surprisingly works, even when it's weird
Some of the weirder moments are what make Naked so enjoyable. Rob breakdancing in a robe for a formidable bike gang so he can catch a ride to the church and his numerous attempts to find the right outfit or risk getting thrown out of the church by his soon-to-be father-in-law are among the more slapstick moments that shine brightly. While there's no examination of the existential meaning of repeating the same day or hour over and over again, there's plenty of mild jokes that usually hit their mark. They add a pleasantly absurd layer to Naked that makes the Netflix original all the more enjoyable.
Seriously, go watch Naked on Netflix ASAP. It may not be as layered as Groundhog Day, but it's a damn fine riff on this classic formula.