What is it with the buddy/road trip genre and Mexico? I don’t mean that in a negative sense, but it always seems as if these films take place south of the border instead of exploring other countries. The problem is that we as an audience aren’t going to be really surprised by any wacky situation our heroes get into because these concepts have been taken from the well so many times. Even if there are some unused and interesting avenues to explore in Mexico that haven’t been touched upon, most films seem to rely on the tried and true tropes seen in dozens of comedies. Personally, I wish I could say that Search Party was different, but it falls flat on almost every single aspect.
It follows the story of Nardo (Thomas Middleditch) after his wedding is ruined by his best friends Evan (Adam Pally), and Jason (T.J. Miller). Jason doesn’t think Nardo’s fiance Tracy (Shannon Woodward) is good for him; she obviously takes offense and runs off to Mexico on vacation. Nardo chases after her, things go awry, and it’s up to Evan and Jason to save Nardo and hopefully learn some life lessons along the way. This isn’t a new story, and truthfully Search Party doesn’t do anything interesting with the talented cast it has on hand. Everything seems exceptionally by-the-book, making the beat-by-beat storytelling as well as the larger story arcs very predictable. Director Scot Armstrong doesn’t try to switch up or subvert our expectations, which sadly results in an incredibly bland comedy. Which is a real shame given how much natural talent the main cast actually has, as in any other movie they usually dole out a ton of laughs.
This has to do with the fact that all three of our main characters are so unabashedly cliche. Nardo is the nervous lover, Evan is the corporate man focused on his career, and Jason is the jackass man-child who refuses to grow up. Their development as characters goes exactly in the direction you think it does, leading to some incredibly boring and uninspiring moments. Jason is the biggest offender, as his story of man-child to becoming an “adult” is so cliche you’d think the movie is trying to satirize the genre itself. Except Search Party is not nearly clever or witty enough to pull off that kind of complex storytelling. He’s an utterly unlikable character, all the way up to when the credits roll, which ruins a large majority of what could be more humorous scenes. Evan fairs a little better, as his character is far more entertaining and doesn’t adhere too strongly to the “businessman” archetype. His relationship with one of his coworkers Elizabeth (Alison Brie) feel genuine, and it’s clear both Brie and Pally have good on-screen chemistry. Truthfully, I found myself far more invested in Evan’s problems than anything to do with Nardo.
Speaking of Nardo, I do have to give props to Middleditch for being completely naked for about half of his screen time, even if this is used primarily as a gross-out factor in a desperate attempt for laughs. I’m supposed to care about Nardo and his well-being, yet this was hardly the case during the 90-minute run time. There is nothing incredibly endearing about him, and what emotional moments he does have just come out completely flat. I should be rooting for him the entire time, but Search Party was much more focused on flashing me his junk than actually developing him as a character. I’d say more about his other half Tracy, except she’s in the film for twenty minutes and none of it is exceptionally great. It honestly seems like Search Party is more focused on jamming as many jokes as it can into a scene rather than progressing their protagonists in any meaningful way. Fully developed characters offer better comedy as we feel more invested in their circumstances, whether outrageous or not.
Yet, I would be willing to overlook all of this if the jokes were actually there. Search Party‘s humor aims to shock and revolt, which is largely ineffective throughout. Not because those kind of jokes aren’t funny to me, but because these are either uninteresting or just lack any real punchline. This, of course, goes back to the inability to invest in any of the characters, as most of the jokes seem to stem from them being in some sort of danger or peril. There’s an extended sequence featuring Parks and Recreation alums Jason Mantzoukas and Jon Glaser that should have been knocked out of the park but is hit-and-miss throughout. Which probably is the best way to describe the jokes in Search Party, as there are a few nuggets of humor littering the movie. One specifically involving Nardo, a truck of cocaine, and a drug runner named Berk (J.B. Smoove) that is one of the funniest scenes in the movie. Berk and his posse do have some of the best lines, but sadly this isn’t enough to save Search Party.
Sadly, this was another disappointing comedy that really had a lot of its potential held back by formulaic characters and story. It’s a film that you may check out once on Netflix, but nothing worth paying actual money to go see. While it’s clear that the cast was game for anything, sadly they were anchored down throughout the entire movie. Search Party is another by-the-book comedy that thinks just trying to gross the audience out is enough to draw consistent laughs throughout the movie. Perhaps they lost a more interesting script in Mexico as well.
- Evan/Elizabeth Chemistry
- Berk and His Crew
- Some Funny Moments
- Cliché Story
- Lacks Any Depth