“Enough of the buffoonery.” – Jaspar
That line of dialogue sums up my feelings about Netflix’s Sextuplets. Anchored (weighed down?) by no fewer than seven characters played by Marlon Wayans, Sextuplets is a tired exercise in silliness. I hope Wayans got Netflix to pay him by the character for his work. Even for a Wayans apologist, Sextuplets is a tough pill to swallow. Unfunny from beginning to end, the only way to enjoy Sextuplets is to… I’m not sure. Turn it off? Find somewhere to stream The 6th Man or old episodes of The Wayans Bros.? Whatever the answer is, it’s nowhere to be found within Sextuplets’ laborious 100 minutes.
DIRECTOR: Michael Tiddes
When Alan learns he has five siblings that he never knew about, he hits the road in order to meet his long-lost family.
The film’s first mistake is building its featherweight story around the blandest incarnation of Wayans: Alan, a well-to-do dullard and father-to-be. A simple question about Alan’s family history unleashes the film’s terrors. Turns out, Alan was adopted after his mother gave birth to sextuplets. Alan sets out to meet his long-lost family, and thus begins the barrage of Wayanses. There’s the obese man-child Russell, whose defining characteristic is his love of cereal. Russell and Alan ride out together to meet their loudmouth, jailed sister Dawn, before going to see their hospitalized brother, Baby Pete. Meanwhile, Ethan, described by another character as “a ’70s pimp,” tries to steal Alan’s identity. There are more characters, but they’re not worth mentioning.
Hopefully this description sounds slapdash, because that’s what the film is. It feels like the creative attitude driving Sextuplets is “why not?” “Should we have one person play most of the characters?” “Should we have arbitrary set pieces involving bulls, rednecks, surprise kidney transplants, and an awkward breastfeeding class?” Sure, why not? The result is a movie that feels made up on the spot, with the spontaneity of first-time improvisers swinging for the fences and missing by a long shot. The script, credited to Wayans, Rick Alvarez, and Mike Glock, is full of uncool references and clunky jokes. If you told me that the script repeatedly said, “Wayans does an extended riff as [insert character name],” I’d believe it. Director Michael Tiddes matches the unimaginative screenplay, giving Sextuplets a flat look that makes it feel like an inert sitcom.
The biggest problem is that Sextuplets isn’t funny enough to make up for its weaknesses. When the funniest joke in the movie is a running gag with each sextuplet commenting on how they look alike, things are dire. The movie doesn’t have jokes so much as setup-less punchlines. Wayans has a pleasant enough onscreen persona here, but he clearly doesn’t have the energy to match the multi-character zaniness of Eddie Murphy in The Nutty Professor or Mike Myers in Austin Powers. Each new character gives Wayans another chance to cut loose, and it looks like he’s having fun. That makes one (or seven) of us.
One of the things that makes Sextuplets such a buzzkill is the way it approaches its different characters. Each sibling, from Russell down to the mysterious Jaspar, is more ridiculous than the previous one. When everything is pitched to this level, it tends to cancel itself out. The moments with Alan become a respite. I would’ve liked to see the version of Sextuplets that inverted the formula, making Alan the eccentric while keeping the other siblings relatively normal. The filmmakers also should’ve gone all the way with the “Wayans plays a bunch of characters” gambit. He should’ve played everybody, from Alan’s wife Marie (Bresha Webb), to his prominent white coworkers (played by Michael Ian Black and Molly Shannon), down to the bull that attacks Russell and Alan. Now that would’ve been something to behold.
Obviously, you should skip Sextuplets. The Netflix algorithm will undoubtedly push this one on you, but don’t take the bait. If you want to hear the same jokes repeated ad nauseum, Netflix still has the rights to The Office until 2020. To quote Jaspar again, “Enough of the buffoonery.”
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