'The Package': Film Review
Jake Szymanski’s raunchy teen comedy features a cast of rising young actors on a quest to save a close friend from very public embarrassment.
To say that The Package is one continuous dirty joke with an outrageously absurd premise wouldn’t be an exaggeration. It’s also a funny, sweet, raucous teen comedy that’s by turns ridiculous and raunchy, but thankfully never too profound. If this Netflix original can attract audiences on the scale of recent sleepers like Set It Up and The Kissing Booth, the streamer’s transparently targeted summer-release strategy will be scoring big with the key teen demographic.
By far the edgiest of the three titles, The Package takes the hallowed spring-break tradition of hard partying as its departure point. For high schoolers Jeremy (Eduardo Franco) and Donnie (Luke Spencer Roberts), a guys-only camping trip seems like a great way to welcome back Sean (Daniel Doheny) from overseas studies in Germany. That is until Jeremy awkwardly informs his buddies that his twin sister, Becky (Geraldine Viswanathan), will be joining them, since she just canceled her Cancun travel plans after breaking up with her clueless boyfriend. She’ll be bringing along her bestie Sarah (Sadie Calvano), who just happens to be Donnie’s hypercritical ex-gf.
No question it’s a potentially volatile mix of personalities, particularly since Sean still harbors a not-so-secret crush for Becky. However, Jeremy remains largely oblivious to the potential conflicts already brewing, as he is more obsessed with his (slightly illegal) super-sharp gravity knife and perfecting his blade technique. A six-mile hike takes the group into the depths of the Northwest wilderness, where they can finally cut loose and indulge in some serious underage drinking. Donnie gets things started with his spiced-rum chugging ritual and pretty soon everyone’s mixing cane liquor and cheap domestic beer with abandon. Jeremy takes things a bit too far, however, and when that tricky blade comes into play, disaster results. Now it’s up to Donnie and his feuding ex, along with awkward Sean and bitter Becky, to come to Jeremy’s rescue before he becomes physically and (very much) psychologically scarred for life.
Although it eschews the more female-skewing romantic focus of Netflix’s other summer teen comedy releases, The Package eventually reveals its softer side once Sean musters the courage to tell Becky how he really feels about her. Of course, it turns out all wrong, forcing him to go even further to prove his loyalty, which is exactly the point.
Doheny, who recently starred in high school rom-com Alex Strangelove, proves adept at physical comedy, at one point taking an epic pratfall that pays off repeatedly in later scenes. Although she looks nothing like Franco’s twin sister, Viswanathan demonstrates that her impressive turn in Blockers was no fluke, delivering put-downs and wisecracks with a slyly innocent expression and lethal intent.
Szymanski (Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates), and co-writers Kevin Burrows and Matt Mider have devised a series of rapidly escalating comedic situations triggered by more than a few WTF moments. While not all of the twists are equally effective, they build with relentless momentum as the friends overcome unexpected obstacles to prove their devotion to Jeremy, although the outcome of their often absurd antics is never in doubt.
Production companies: Netflix Studios, Red Hour Films, Campfire, Mail Order Productions
Cast: Daniel Doheny, Geraldine Viswanathan, Eduardo Franco, Luke Spencer Roberts, Sadie Calvano
Director: Jake Szymanski
Screenwriters: Kevin Burrows, Matt Mider
Producers: Blake Anderson, Adam Devine, Ross M. Dinerstein, Anders Holm, Kyle Newacheck, Ben Stiller, Nicholas Weinstock
Executive producers: Jamie Goehring, Shawn Williamson
Director of photography: Hillary Spera
Production designer: Geoff Wallace
Costume designer: Ariana Preece
Editor: Christian Hoffman
Music: Adam Schiff