Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 21, 2016)
In the same vein as 2009’s The Hangover, 2016’s Search Party provides a bawdy “bro-centric” comedy. On the night before Daniel “Nardo” Narducci’s (Thomas Middleditch) wedding to his fiancée Tracy (Shannon Woodward), he discusses the many pros and fews cons of matrimony with his buddies Jason (TJ Miller) and Evan (Adam Pally).
This chat backfires during the ceremony itself. Focuses solely on the handful of cons, Jason tries to halt the wedding, a move that prompts an outraged Tracy to bolt. Tracy heads off on the planned honeymoon anyway, and Nardo goes in pursuit.
Unfortunately for him, Nardo gets carjacked and left naked in Mexico. He calls his pals for help and this sends the guys on a series of wild adventures.
Completed in 2014, Search Party earned release in foreign territories across 2014 and 2015, but it stayed on the shelf in the US until 2016. Given that it was an American production, this implies a lack of confidence from the studio.
And it didn’t inspire confidence in me, either. I suspect the relative success of HBO’s Silicon Valley - which stars Middleditch and Miller – influenced the movie’s US release, and that’s a large reason I gave it a shot.
While the plot doesn’t literally remake The Hangover, it bears more than a few similarities. Both involve weddings, drugs, sex, casinos and many other connections. Without question, Party wouldn’t exist if the Hangover template didn’t come first.
I never got the appeal of The Hangover, as I thought it provoked a handful of laughs but not enough to make it a good movie. That said, Hangover looks like an all-time classic compared to Party, a mess of a film that gets worse and worse as it goes.
The first few minutes of Party actually show promise. The bachelor party conversation boasts some quirky laughs and sets up the characters in an amusing manner.
And then it all starts to go wrong when we get to the wedding. As the ceremony nears completion, Jason remains in a cab as he debates whether Nardo should go through with it. He’s out there for a very long time and everything else moves along without him.
So let me see if I get this straight. The wedding pushes ahead without Nardo’s lifelong best friend in attendance – and without any sign that anyone notices or cares he’s absent.
Why does the film follow this path? To allow Jason his Benjamin Braddock moment, as he bursts into the church and brings the ceremony to a halt.
That’s it – the only reason the movie doesn’t place Jason in the wedding pre-outburst is to allow for an attempted joke. It makes no sense at all that he’s not there already, and the movie doesn’t even bother to try to explain his absence. We just watch the nuptials as though everything’s hunky-dory.
Then there’s Nardo’s carjacking. Why do the criminals steal his clothes? Maybe they like vintage threads – Nardo dons his grandfather’s tux – but why would they take his underwear? Again, for theoretical comedy – nude Nardo is funnier than tighty-whitey-clad Nardo, I guess.
Look, I don’t expect impeccable logic from a wacky comedy like this – I know it’ll stretch and snap credulity. But I’d like at least some basic grounding in the real world – and some signs that the filmmakers tried to make sense of events. Party lacks those efforts, so it comes with many head-scratching leaps of logic.
It also feels badly edited, as scenes fit together in an awkward manner that adds to the lack of coherence. Segments jump from one to another in a way that leaves the impression we’re missing footage, and the characters can’t even maintain internal consistency.
For instance, late in the story, Tracy claims that Nardo stood her up at the altar. Huh? That doesn’t make any sense at all – he’s there and about to finish the matrimonial deal when Jason interrupts. I’m guessing an earlier draft of the script left Tracy alone in the church and no one bothered to correct the subsequent scene.
If the filmmakers don’t care about their product, why should I? Largely due to the talents of its cast, Search Party manages the occasional laugh, but these become fewer and farther between as the movie gets dumber and more insulting. Contrived and idiotic, Party flops.
Footnote: some additional footage shows up during and after the end credits.