‘Naked’ is Groundhog Day, With Marlon Wayans and Partial Nudity.

Naked is actually a remake of a Swedish language comedy called Naken that didn’t do too well with the critics. Michael Tiddes serves as director and is most notable for other Wayans Productions such as 50 Shades of Black and A Haunted House. Those credits might steer most viewers away on principal, but Naked is not to be ignored. The Groundhog Day vibes are evident from the trailer, but the journey our protagonist goes through doesn’t fit most of the typical traps that other Wayans Brothers production fall prey to.

The movie opens on the evening before Rob Anderson (Marlon Wayans) is to wed the love of his life. From the moment we are introduced to Rob, we get vibes that he’s a cool guy, if extremely immature. Clad in an Atari T-shirt, he’s finishing up a class lecture on Lord of the Flies and Catcher in the Rye. But he’s not the stereotypical private school teacher who is stuffy and lacking in humor. No, he’s cracking jokes at the expense of his students and some of them jab a bit at him as well in good natured fun.

We soon meet Rob’s fiancé, Megan Swope (Regina Hall) and we can see on first glance that she’s too good for him. She’s a doctor who helps children and comes from an affluent background. Rob on the other hand is a substitute teacher who turns down an offer for full time employment. Rob’s excuse for declining the job is that he lacks time to commit to the schedule. And here is where one of the major themes first crops up. Rob cannot commit to anything: being on time for flights, dance lessons, writing vows.

The Groundhog Day comparisons really ramp up on the day of the wedding. We inexplicably find Rob trapped in an elevator with nothing but his birthday suit. Unlike Groundhog Day where Phil Connors must relive the entire day, Rob only has to relive one hour. Because you’re anticipating that first changeover, you keep wondering how much more can go wrong in Rob’s life before he gets his do over. However, after the initial hour is up and you realize the conceit of the movie, you can go along for the journey, as Rob learns over and over again what he needs to do make his wedding go right. For the most part we get to live out this limbo with Rob as he tries to make the right events happen. When the case calls for more repetitive learning experiences, the audience gets a break with clever montages of his attempts.

Cinematically, Naked is right on the border between being too good for a TV movie and not quite good enough for a theatrical release. There were parts of the movie, particularly the score that would have felt right at home on the Hallmark Network. The score at the beginning was particularly mundane and had me apprehensive about the rest of the film. However, the actual soundtrack helped elevate the movie. I was expecting any pop songs to be knock offs or sound-alikes, but I was pleasantly surprised to hear the actual artists belting out their tunes at thematically appropriate times. The best song use came from Can’t Hurry Love when our protagonist is at his crisis point about this entire wedding and time paradox.

The cast really sells this piece and elevates it to near theatrical quality. Not only do you have Marlon Wayans and Regina Hall knocking it out of the park, but Dennis Haysbert and Loretta Devine are perfect as the bride and groom’s respective parents. You cower along with Rob as he interacts with Megan’s dad, and you feel sorry for the whole church as Rob’s mom sings another wedding-inappropriate hymn from the hymnal.

Overall, Naked is just fun. So, if you like Groundhog Day and don’t hold it on a pedestal, this might be worth your time too. The conceit may be the same, but the characters’ personalities and their motivations aren’t. Plus, the pay off at the end is great when things finally start to come together for Rob. And much like Groundhog Day, it lets the viewer draw their own conclusions on how this all happened.


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