I had low expectations going into The Wrong Missy. On the surface, it seemed like another Netflix production designed primarily to give the Happy Madison crew a paid vacation in an exotic location, á la the aggressively mediocre Murder Mystery and The Do-Over. And while The Wrong Missy doesn’t do much to refute that accusation, there are just enough signs of life to set it apart.
David Spade plays Tim, a middle-aged David Spade-type adjusting to single life after a painful divorce. One night he finds himself on a disastrous blind date with Missy (Lauren Lapkus), a borderline-psychotic free spirit whose aggressive sexual advances and lack of decorum horrify buttoned-up Tim so much that he ditches her mid-date. Some time later, Tim has a chance meeting in an airport with another woman (Molly Sims) who also happens to go by Missy. This second Missy is Tim’s perfect woman; the two have seemingly everything in common. After a brief tryst in a janitor’s closet, they exchange numbers, promising to reconnect with one another. When Tim has to pick a plus-one for his company’s Hawaiian retreat, he naturally reaches out to Missy. But here’s the kicker: Tim invited the wrong Missy! Now Tim must wrangle his out-of-control guest while vying for a juicy promotion.
The Wrong Missy has all the hallmarks of a Netflix movie: the flatly glossy cinematography, the unsubtle product placement, the anonymous soundtrack. It also ticks plenty of Happy Madison’s boxes, chiefly its deep stable of Adam Sandler hangers-on. But any notion of this being yet another Grown Ups or Ridiculous Six is dispelled as soon Lapkus makes her entrance. This is her first starring role in a major-ish movie, and she comes to play, bringing a fount of raw comedic energy to a movie that desperately needs it. Occasionally her funny/shrill bit devolves into just plain shrill, but for the most part she sells the hell out of it, making often-lackluster dialogue sing and throwing herself into physical gags in the name of getting a laugh. Her performance is the only thing about this movie that could ever be called exciting, and she seems to know it.
There are times when the writing is up to Lapkus’s standard, showing a likable willingness to go further than the average studio comedy; there are a few visual gags so crass that you’ll laugh in spite of yourself. But for every one of these there’s a joke that’ll elicit halfhearted chuckles at best. Spade has yet to perfect the art of sleepwalking to Sandler’s level, but there are times in this movie where he comes dangerously close. He perks up in his scenes with Lapkus, a perfect foil for his sarcastic straight-man schtick, but when deprived of an able sparring partner he falls back on playing himself.
When The Wrong Missy’s jokes land, they distract from just how plotless it is. There’s the ostensible narrative of Tim competing for the big promotion, but it’s nothing more than an excuse for hijinks. Some of these work better than others: a subplot involving Missy hypnotizing Tim’s boss has some funny moments but overstays its welcome, and culminates in the movie’s worst, most comedically stillborn scene. The Wrong Missy’s first half, which gives Lapkus an excuse to run rampant, is easily the best stretch of the movie. Then the story takes an ill-advised, all-too-predictable turn: Tim sees Missy’s more endearing qualities and starts to fall for her. The “twist” is completely unbelievable, but more importantly, it blunts the comedy. It requires Missy – barely a character to begin with, but one who could be summed up as an ill-mannered psycho – to become an entirely different, far less entertaining person for next to no reason. The filmmakers are apparently aware of this, considering how they rush through the resolution and cap things off with an anemic coda.
Thankfully, at a lean eighty-five minutes, The Wrong Missy doesn’t wear out its welcome. Before you can begin to harbor any resentment towards its disappointing finale, the credits are rolling and Netflix is already lining up its next piece of pap. You’ll probably forget the particulars of the plot, the supporting cast, and even the title – but Lapkus’s incredibly game turn makes a lasting impression.