2018, PG-13, 106 min. Directed by Tony Vidal. Starring Jake Thomas, Chris Brochu, Michelle DeShon, Arienne Mandi, Zoe Corraface, Andres Londono, José Zúñiga, Kurt Fuller, Cynthia Stevenson, Mark Margolis.
REVIEWED By Danielle White, Fri., April 13, 2018
Watching Baja is sort of like reading a short story by that insufferable creative writing student who so obviously worships Jack Kerouac. Imitation is flattery until it becomes a waste of everyone’s time. The second effort by writer/director Tony Vidal (following 2010’s The Prankster) has a distinctly amateurish vibe. Bryan (Thomas) is a goody-goody always getting pushed around – by his boss or, strangely, his parents (Stevenson and Fuller), who expect him to drive their RV to Cabo, where they are vacationing, like some errand boy chauffeur. Thankfully, best friend Todd (Brochu) has a better idea, and the two team up with their high school buds Lisa (Mandi) and Jessica (DeShon) to make the trip together. Everybody has their own private mission, but Todd signs up to move some phones for shady businessman Jorge (Londono). When the phones are stolen, these twentysomethings find themselves in some ever deepening shit.
Baja’s biggest issue is that its script is grossly undercooked (and also just gross). For dialogue, it dips as low as “We’re not in Kansas anymore” and “It’s your funeral” (I was holding my breath for “It’s not about the journey, but the destination”). The actors do what they can with such terrible lines – they almost overcompensate with hand gestures and the widening of eyes. Brochu (Luke Parker on The Vampire Diaries) is often the centerpiece with the scuzzy charm of a B-grade, Gen Z Steve Stifler.
At times, the film reaches for larger themes only to abandon them. For instance, the four leads broach a conversation about what it means to be “basic.” There’s zero substance behind this weird sequence, and Lisa abruptly changes the subject anyway. Another is the idea of authenticity: I thought I caught a whiff of commentary on cultural appropriation when, for the final leg of the trip, Bryan dresses up as a shaman and hijacks a food truck; but the fact that it passed as a perfectly acceptable thing to do left me perplexed. During a pit stop, the boys go surfing, and the use of a green screen is so cheesy and poorly executed that I thought surely it must be some sort of joke I didn’t understand. Same goes for the horrible spray tan Kurt Fuller is sporting. I probably wouldn’t be so disappointed if the film was at least entertaining, or that charming "good" sort of "bad," but it fails at that as well. Baja is just plain bad.