There is a line that a character says in Netflix’s Ibiza that encapsulates the entire movie. Harper, an aimless YOLO-er played by Gillian Jacobs (Love, Community), is walking around a high-end apartment with her D.J. love interest in awe of the Ibiza view (spoiler alert: she makes it to Ibiza). She suddenly spots an outdoor hot tub and proclaims, “This is like a date on the Bachelor!”
As every Bachelor fan knows, the actual dates are the worst part of the show. All the petty drama and backstabbing are put aside, and two people who barely know each other ride something (four wheelers, horses, jet skis, etc.), have a highly edited, forced conversation with dinner, and kiss under a fireworks display. None of it is genuine, none of it is entertaining.
*Climbs out of rabbit hole* In this way the comparison is perfectly accurate. Ibiza is a “rom-com” that should have stayed a “com”. Any attempt it makes to “rom” is met with the emotional depth of a Calvin Harris music video.
Harper’s initial reason for traveling to Europe is for a work assignment. A vile supervisor at her P.R. firm selected her to recruit a brand in Barcelona. Her two best friends, played by Phoebe Robinson (2 Dope Queens) and Vanessa Bayer (Saturday Night Live), invite themselves to tag along. When the trio is enjoying a night at the club, Harper locks eyes with an adorkable D.J. played by Richard Madden (Game of Thrones). He asks her to come backstage to wipe a phallic drawing off her face, and “sparks” fly. It’s just as romantic as it sounds.
What comes next is a fever dream of EDM and escapism. The girls toss aside work responsibilities and social inhibitions to follow the D.J. to Ibiza. What can go wrong?
Ibiza’s positives begin and end with the three main characters. Vanessa Bayer shines as the lovable klutz. She is finally given the room to flex her comedic muscles, room that wasn’t given to her in Trainwreck and Office Christmas Party. Her character gets put through the ringer: vicious sunburns, Adderall highs, and errant bird goop being notable misfortunes. Add Bayers’ hijinks with a hilarious observation on European beach goers by Robinson, and Ibiza has a great pair of silly sidekicks. Jacobs emits honesty and charm, but it blends with the rest of the movie like oil and water.
Alex Richenbach’s directing is metallic and predictable, like the techno beat drops that he loves showcasing.There are just…. so many dance club montages. “Despacito” makes an appearance, “Mi Gente” makes an appearance, the movie is one “Sorry” away from being the ultimate frat-party playlist. They aren’t necessarily out of place, just empty. They are filler, music interludes when the director punts on dialogue or actual storytelling.
Ibiza is too busy with elaborate aerial shots of the city to spend any quality time with its lead. The character development is only skin deep, when a character introduces himself with his full Spanish name Harper only replies with “Hi, I’m Harper.” The girls aren’t fighting over a man, which is refreshing, but the connections between the three do not feel secure and deep-rooted. They can be funny as individuals, but the team itself never fully blossoms.
The reason is most likely because of the shoehorned romance between Jacobs and Madden. This is the “date on the Bachelor” aspect that instantly halts the film whenever it builds a little momentum. None of it is genuine, none of it is entertaining. Ibiza tries so hard to be so many different kinds of movies that it never succeeds at any of them.
Robinson, Bayer, and Jacobs are too talented and funny for this material. Jacobs deserves a better love story than, “Wow that D.J. and I had a moment together.” Every Spanish side character is a one-dimensional cartoon. EDM fans might find some enjoyment out of Ibiza, but then again why not just stream an EDM music video compilation.