Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.
Courtney Howard // Film Critic
There’s so much right going for Netflix’s THE WRONG MISSY. Directed by Tyler Spindel, this refreshing romantic comedy has got a hooky premise, two solidly talent lead actors, entertaining shenanigans a plenty in a fantasy island locale. In the film, Tim (David Spade) has just met the woman of his dreams, Missy (Molly Sims), when he takes a leap of faith, texting her, asking her to join him on a high-pressure business trip. Trouble is, he was mistakenly texting a different Missy (Lauren Lapkus), one with whom he shared a disastrous first date. Hijinks and hilarity ensue from there.
FF: Was it harder to film a movie in Oahu – at a luxury hotel (the Four Seasons) – when there’s paradise and relaxation surrounding you?
Tyler Spindel: When I’m shooting a movie, I’m so focused. I need to go back to Hawaii now to enjoy it. My girlfriend was there for some of the shoot, so she had a great time. But I didn’t get to do any of the stuff. It’s so fun there. I’m lucky that I got to go there. Maybe the crew really enjoyed it.
There’s probably something to be said about making a romcom that leans a little bit raunchy in the shadow of a Disney resort. The Aulani is right next door. Were there any restrictions to what you could do outside?
The interesting thing is you’re not allowed to film the Disney hotel. We had to shoot around it.
Is there a magic formula to keeping comedy bits feeling fresh and unique in a genre where there’s expected notes to hit?
What we go by is if it makes us laugh then it’s funny. We do as much as we can to keep it fresh, but story arcs are story arcs. They do follow a similar path. We try to bring a fresher tone, or fresher characters and try to twist the story in a little bit of a way to make it slightly different. It’s something you’re always thinking about.
Speaking to that, and I don’t want to explain comedy to you, but there’s a rhythm to comedy not just with the actors’ repartee and banter, but also in the editing process. I’m wondering if you can speak to finding that here and working with yours to shape the humor?
A thousand percent. Editing is probably the most important thing whether something comes out funny or not funny. To me, it’s about trying to surprise the audience with the timing – whether it’s taking longer than the audience expects or quicker, or slightly different delivery. If the audience knows what the punchline’s going to be, or can feel it coming, they’re not going to laugh.
You got to pull from a stable of “Happy Madison” players and crew. How important was it to work with a cast who are experienced at improvising and a crew who are familiar with the brand?
It makes it so much easier. Swardson and Spade are best buddies. You don’t have to worry about them building chemistry, or being funny together. They’re already there. You can watch them go back and forth on Instagram – they do it all the time. You can just let those guys go and you’re going to get something great. Same thing with him and Rob Schneider. They go back to SNL. With Lauren, me, Lauren and Spade did a couple rehearsals before we shot and they build their chemistry. Once there’s good chemistry between comedians, it just makes my job easier.
The conversation between Nick and Rob on the boat where they’re discussing FREE WILLY, about the whale being unlikeable, got me.
That was improvised. That was Rob’s idea. There were ten other versions of that where they did bits and talking about other things. One was about peanut butter. There were so many funny ones. It’s a shame we could only use one. Schneider was only there three or four days, but he made such a lasting impression.
I’d imagine casting the right Missy to play the Wrong Missy was maybe a process. Lauren is absolutely fearless and funny. What was it about her that made her perfect for the part?
We probably auditioned 200 people. When she came in and read, it was so funny. We always knew the character was funny, but we had to make sure you liked her and she didn’t come across as harsh. We felt Lauren was delightful enough to pull off all these crazy, insane jokes and still feel for her and root for her. That’s what pushed her apart from everybody else.
Spade plays “the straight man” in this comedic duo scenario, which is also an egoless, tough job. And this is your second time working with him. What did you learn this time about your collaboration?
I learned he can do it all. He’s such a versatile actor. You know what’s cool about him? He knows how to be funny in so many different ways. He knows how to be big and whacky, but also how to do a subtle look with his eyes and that’s enough. He’s a really strong actor. This is really not a comedic role. His instincts were good and it was really impressive.
Was it a challenge to modulate the tone so that it’s keeping Tim the brunt of the joke and not mocking Missy?
It’s definitely feeling out where the character is strength-wise. You want to feel bad for him, but not so sad for him you don’t laugh. Yet it’s gotta find that middle ground where it’s funny watching him go through all this stuff.
Where did the idea for using Hungarian “shadow dancing” come from? Was it from BRITTAIN’S GOT TALENT?
Yes. That was in the original script. The writers, I think they were big fans and it was a silly. crazy idea that we hadn’t seen in a movie. We got one of the troupes that may have done that talent show to do the act for us. These guys were unbelievable – the tricks they could do. They were such acrobats.
Was New Kids On The Block’s “The Right Stuff” parody always in the script? Were there any music rights issues, or any alternatives you had in mind if you couldn’t get that song?
That wasn’t always in the script. We wrote parodies of six different songs and then we went to see which we could get cleared. We thought it was a really funny song. It was also the funniest version, so we were lucky.
Were there screen tests to find the right size for Missy’s knife, Sheila?
[laughs] You know, we looked at quite a lot. We looked at bedazzling them. There was one version where it was like a comb you opened and that was a knife. We had the same prop guy on all the movies and when there’s a prop, he just nails it. There were like ten different knives.
Was the James Patterson book you used, the title “Cross the Line,” a nod to Missy crossing Tim’s line?
Ah. I never actually thought of that. But that’s a really good point. I should’ve thought of that.
I read in your bio that you had originally started out doing standup. What were some of the lessons you learned on stage about constructing jokes that you now apply to filmmaking?
Oh completely. You learn real fast what’s funny and what’s not. You learn about timing and also, if you deliver a great joke wrong, it won’t get a laugh. But if you deliver a mediocre joke right, or in a funny way, you can still get a laugh. It teaches you how to tell a joke in the harshest way possible. I never got to the place I was doing giant audiences. When you’re doing small audiences, it’s harder. You learn faster because you don’t have a giant crowd to land with each other. If you’re doing a 1AM set at the Comic Strip in New York to 8 people, you really gotta deliver the joke right or you’re gonna eat it hard.
What did you learn about yourself making this film?
For me, the goal was always to give people an escape – to give something to people that was just fun, funny and light. That it didn’t take itself too seriously. Every time I shoot something, I love it more and more. It doesn’t feel like a job, honestly. I hope I get to keep doing it and keep having fun.
THE WRONG MISSY begins streaming on May 13 on Netflix.