So long a staple of the moviegoing experience, the summer comedy has fallen on hard times. There are hardly any on this season’s release schedule, and one of the more promising candidates — “Ibiza,” starring the terrific Gillian Jacobs and the former “Saturday Night Live” cast member Vanessa Bayer — isn’t playing in theatres but is streaming on Netflix.
In most ways, “Ibiza” doesn’t differ greatly from the late-arriving post-“Bridesmaids” ilk of raunchy female-led road trip comedies. Jacobs (“Love,” ”Community”) plays an angst-ridden, single New Yorker named Harper whose intensely cruel, germaphobe boss (the excellent Michaela Watkins) dispatches her to Barcelona on a business trip to land a Sangria client for their public relations company.
Harper’s two best friends, Nikki (Bayer) and Leah (Phoebe Robinson of “2 Dope Queens”) insist on coming along. When the normally reticent Harper pursues a DJ love interest (Richard Madden, a.k.a. Robb Stark on “Game of Thrones”), their European trip takes an impromptu detour to Spain’s nightclub destination.
The outline of “Ibiza” isn’t promising. A movie geared around a hot Ibiza DJ sounds like a straight-to-video Zac Efron movie. And finding true love in the EDM-blaring clubs of Ibiza is probably about as likely as discovering the meaning of life on spring break at Lake Havasu.
But “Ibiza,” scripted by Lauryn Kahn and directed by Alex Richanbach (both Funny Or Die veterans and disciples of “Ibiza” producer Adam McKay and Will Ferrell) has a loose, natural rhythm that easily surpasses its cliche framework.
And unlike some of its forerunners, “Ibiza” doesn’t feel like it’s stretching to stitch together a few memorable set pieces. It works best when the three are just in a hotel room or the back seat of a cab because the chemistry between the trio is earnestly winning.
Jacobs has by now become an expert in sarcastic, wounded, resilient characters, and she holds “Ibiza” together just as surely as she does an episode of “Love,” also a Netflix title. As ludicrous as it sounds, her budding romance with Madden’s famous DJ comes across as quite genuine; they believably fall in love at first sight, brought together by that evergreen valentine: a crude drawing unknowingly stenciled across Harper’s face.
And while the genial Robinson is also a key part of the group, “Ibiza” most belongs to Bayer. In her largest movie role yet, the former “SNL”er (she departed last year after seven seasons) plays the Melissa McCarthy-esque role of hapless sidekick, but with a more subtle and shy comic energy to her physical comedy. She’s always been a standout ensemble performer, but “Ibiza” makes a good argument that Bayer can do more. Whether sunburnt bright red on the Spanish beach or recounting her post-“SNL” Sunday routine, Bayer excels at the comedy of being herself.
If “Ibiza,” a sweet and silly romantic comedy, was on the big screen, it might have pushed itself toward bigger gags. But the smaller scale works well in a genre that increasingly feels like a gross-out scene arms race. Here, Bayer does plenty with a simple hotel bed that she excitedly jumps on, not realizing it’s two fulls pushed together.
“Ibiza,” a Netflix release, is unrated by the Motion Picture Association of America but its language and nudity content would qualify for an “R” rating. Running time: 94 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
Jake Coyle, The Associated Press