About 15 minutes into The Package, we get a long, graphic close-up of a girl vomiting all over a severed penis. It’s an image that neatly sums up the film – saying just everything you need to know about Jake Szymanski’s new teen comedy in one little puddle of blood and mud and carrot-chunks.
This is that film about the guy who chops his own dick off (as it’s probably always going to be remembered as), although it’s unlikely to go down in comedy history as anything other than a missed opportunity.
Ben Stiller and Adam DeVine produce Szymanski’s first film after 2016’s Mike And Dave Need Wedding Dates, helping him take a gross, funny idea and make it a bit more gross and lot less funny than it needs to be. The likeable cast deserves some credit, but they’re stuck in a comedy that doesn’t actually have any jokes in it. What it does have, though, is a whole lot of dick.
Up and comers Daniel Doheny, Sadie Calvano, Geraldine Viswanathan, Luke Spencer Roberts and Eduardo Franco star as the teenage stereotypes who hike into the woods for a weekend of banter, binge-drinking and awkward sexual repression. Four of the five are obviously going to couple up at some point, so the film gets rid of the annoying fifth wheel (Franco) by having him drunkenly slice off his own penis with a switchblade.
To be fair, the other kids do the right thing by immediately phoning for an air ambulance and packing the bloody member in ice, but they manage to mess up when the paramedics arrive by giving them the wrong cooler. As their haemorrhaging friend makes his way to hospital, the gang has just 12 hours to run back down a mountain and reunite him with his muddy, vomitty penis before it rots beyond all repair.
As concepts go, it’s a pretty workable one. Credit to Szymanski for coming up with a teen comedy that doesn’t feature a single scene of a guy drinking out of a red cup or a girl taking her shirt off. You could even argue that the film is some kind of clever comment on teen movies in general – castrating a genre driven by the male-gaze and taking a knife to the one thing that still drives ticket sales in Hollywood. Unfortunately though, The Package is just a really dumb dick pic.
Penises, in general, are pretty funny – and the film has plenty of fun with its main star by cramming it into toilets and mouths and snake pits until you feel like you’ve seen it do everything you actually want to see it do. But it’s hard not to feel like a good film needs a bit more than just a dirty little prosthetic dick.
The best joke comes midway through the film when Franco’s character sadly looks at a wilting rose from his hospital bed – its petals starting to fall, à la Beauty And The Beast – but Szymanski ruins it five minutes later by repeating the joke and explaining it in full. Sadly, every gag in The Package is delivered in the same way – signposted, fumbled and over-egged until the whole thing looks like a lesson in how not to be funny. Likewise, a string of neat twists to keep the film moving, but you’ll see them all coming long before they actually arrive. Doheny and Calvano, in particular, do a good job of making their slightly annoying characters seem a bit more likeable, but these still aren’t kids you actually want to spend 90 minutes with.
Take out the jokes, get rid of the cast and ignore the plot, and what are we left with? Dick.
The Package is out now on Netflix.