Surprise Me!, written and directed by Nancy Goodman from her own novel, is a romantic comedy so cheesy that it almost feels like it is trying to be self-aware (even though it isn’t). Unfortunately, the only thing that is surprising about this film is the sheer amount of tropes that they were able to fit into the story.
The movie follows a professional surprise party planner who finds herself at the center of a love triangle when she can’t decide between the perfect and handsome hunk and her charming longtime friend. With the exception of the surprise party planning, this reads like any other romantic comedy ever made, and that is pretty much the case. For a movie so obsessed with surprises, one would expect the story to be less predictable.
The more baffling part of the film, though, comes in around the halfway point when the protagonist is hired to do a surprise wedding by a rich client (and it’s obvious where that is going). Even beyond the existence of a professional surprise party planner being pretty counterintuitive, the idea of having a surprise wedding without the knowledge of one of the participants is wrong and something that could only exist in the movies.
Additionally, the movie’s humor isn’t particularly successful. Although some viewers may find themselves laughing at the stupidity of what they are watching, the film’s earnest attempts at comedy are awkward and sometimes painful. For example, the female protagonist, flirting with an openly (and stereotypically) homosexual man says, “I read that 66% of gay men end up in heterosexual relationships,” and the movie reacts to it with a straight face, as if there is nothing wrong with that line.
The character development in the film is good enough that the audience won’t be consistently annoyed by the characters, but it isn’t sufficient to make the love triangle feel compelling. For a love triangle to be compelling, it needs to be balanced. Both romantic interests need to be likable, and preferably, in a situation where either one could triumph. In this situation, one end of the triangle is clearly the correct decision.
Jonathan Bennett, of Mean Girls and cooking show fame, is the only recognizable face in the cast, and he is one of the few legitimately charming parts of the movie. Bennett has a likable personality, and was very well-cast in the most likable role in the film. Everyone else in the cast feels very wooden. The lead, Fiona Gubelmann, seems more fit for supporting work than lead roles.
On a technical level, the movie is as generic and cheesy as one would expect. The cinematography is frequently over-saturated to give the film an artificially bright feel. Goodman’s use of color is aggressive, sometimes laughably so. The soundtrack is filled with poppy tunes that will quickly grate one’s nerves.
One of the funniest movies of the year, but not on purpose, Surprise Me! manages to adhere to so many genre tropes that it becomes an endlessly watchable trainwreck. Maybe this film will achieve a cult following one day from people hoping to seek out the worst of the worst.
Surprise Me! is now available on VOD.