The Drop, streaming on Hulu this past week, is one of those movies that feels like it should be really funny and just isn’t. Like everyone assumed that they could just get a bunch of talented people together and eventually a movie would break out, only it doesn’t. It mostly offers that vicarious feeling of watching a friend try to bullshit their way through a meeting they were clearly unprepared for.
The premise: a bunch of comedy actors you know and love, including Jermaine Fowler from Sorry to Bother You and Anna Konkle from Pen15, have gathered together at a quirky destination wedding in Mexico. It’s there that Konkle’s character drops her friends’ baby. “The Drop,” get it? It won’t make me forgive them for lifting the title from a much-better Tom Hardy movie, but I can acknowledge the soundness of the logic.
The Drop‘s seems like a perfectly cromulent premise (bonus points for the tagline: “it’s not the baby, it’s how you handle it!”) and I was one of the few people who actually loved writer/director Sarah Adina Smith’s sophomore feature, Buster’s Mal Heart. Unfortunately, it feels like everyone involved also thought the premise sounded good and just figured they’d work out the finer points on location.
Letting your actors improvise seems like a not-idiotic proposition when the cast includes veterans of funny shows like Aparna Nancherla from Corporate, Jillian Bell from Workaholics, Robin Thede from A Black Lady Sketch Show (et al), but it feels like they’re all trying to add quirks with no foundation. And so they just end up with this weird ball of quirks. At one point, Thede’s character performs an awkward one-woman show based on a character type that up until that point we hadn’t been introduced to yet.
Konkle and Fowler play Lex and Mani, newlyweds running an artisanal bakery in LA (I actually got most of this information from the official synopsis, in the movie Konkle’s character also seems like she’s a writer’s assistant for Robin Thede’s character?). They’re also in the midst of trying to conceive while jetting off for their friends’ destination lesbian wedding in Mexico. Plans go awry once they land when Lex drops the couples’ baby, and hijinks ensue. Or at least, you get the sense that they were meant to. Bits include Nancherla’s character maybe turning into a Republican, and Thede’s character’s adopted son, Levi (Elisha Henig) having a no-wanks-based YouTube channel. God help them, they keep trying to make this weird horny son funny and he never is.
The story is bare-bones yet still manages to be sort of confusing, and the construction doesn’t help either. One of the few moments that genuinely made me laugh was Jennifer Lafleur’s character leaning her baby in for Konkle to kiss, and Konkle accidentally burping on it. The idea was funny and it was nicely abrupt, though I actually didn’t even know who had burped at first. It was a shot of multiple people and Konkle was only half in the frame, and the burp sounded like an effect they added in post. Almost every facet of The Drop seems designed to prove the truth of the old comedy adage, “no one laughs when they’re confused.”
“Almost funny” sounds like an insult, and mostly it is, but it’s still important to draw a distinction between almost funny and unfunny, or anti-funny. Genuinely bad comedy makes you a little bit angry. The Drop is more sad, or merely disappointing. The experience is a little like the parts of Some Kind Of Monster where you watch the boys from Metallica noodling around trying to find melodies that, for whatever reason, just weren’t coming together for them that day.