Two heartbroken strangers plan to get back at their exes in Osman Ali’s romantic comedy.
“I’ve been spending too much on rings.”
I love a good cynical movie, especially when it comes to romantic comedies. The idea of the jaded lead with a pessimistic view on love is always appealing and the all-to-often needed breath of fresh air the genre needs. So a movie called Mission: Destroy Love, about two jilted lovers, seemed perfect. It sounded exactly the sort of anti-romantic comedy that Hollywood is missing, and the expectation-breaking story that Asian cinema is famous for. Let’s take a look, and hope it doesn’t immediately dive into boring tropes and clichés. I mean, surely not.
The movie stars Bront Palarae as Joe, a guy who has been recently dumped by his girlfriend. While on a trip to Thailand to try to get over her, he accidentally runs into Gina (Maya Karin), who finds a photograph on him, of the woman who stole her fiancé. After chasing him down and getting into an argument with him, they learn that respective exes have happened to hook up with each other and are now engaged to be married. Joining forces, and bringing in their friends, they decide to sabotage their wedding in an attempt to get their exes back. But will they fall in love in the process?
Yes. Of course they will, because Mission: Destroy Love (given the far less clunky title Sejoli in Malaysian) is nothing if not paint-by-numbers, and disappointingly so. It gives its charming leads this awkward opener where they have to sort of hate each other, but the animosity feels very unnatural and (like a few things in the script) makes the leads look like jerks. You know why the film does this: because leads in a romantic comedy must always hate each other before they fall in love. But this lasts for all of five minute, until the movie realises what a bad idea this is, and they quickly start to like one another.
All throughout, the two characters have these emotional moments that almost work, but never quite hits the realm of human behaviour. It’s all a bit too cartoony sometimes and the film reflects that: from the silly costume missions to the wacky situations, and the ever-present goofy musical cues. It’s like it’s daring us to not take it seriously but also wants to throw emotional stakes into the game. What this results in is an audience liking the characters but not really caring whether they get with the right person or not. In fact, by the time the plan comes to fruition, it’s actually quite jarring to see the two of them still want to be with their original partners.
The plans are usually based around the concept of getting the couple to argue: either about wedding themes (she wants Twilight, he wants Transformers, everyone is awful), or about whether she’s too fat to fit in her dress. They’re very silly, and that’s fine, but they don’t hold a tonne of narrative weight. Both Gina and Joe are kinda shitty, with Hardy (Remy Ishak) and Nita (Izara Aishah) originally painted as bad guys but becoming very sympathetic near the end. That the two leads are so endearing makes this an even more bizarre viewing experience. The movie’s pacing is all over the place. It kind of goes into another story about an hour in, ending its “destroy the wedding” plot pretty early on. Things pick up again around the third act, but for a little while in the middle the film sort of stagnates, with little forward momentum.
At this point, you wish the film had simply gotten into way darker territory – like Intolerable Cruelty – but it never does. At least the way it goes into its final twenty minutes is fun and gives us a team-up I wouldn’t have expected and some enjoyable little moments. Mission: Destroy Love is funny in places, and tries really hard – which is better than if it had just given up. It is at its best when it’s going all out with shenanigans, and not taking the easy route. However, those moments are few and far between, offering us little new in interim. It’s not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s also not particularly great. You’re not getting anything new with this film, but chances are you’ll have a pretty decent time.
Verdict: Mission: Destroy Love is perfectly serviceable, but it could have been darker, funnier or both
Overall entertainment: 6/10
Torn dresses: 2
Top-level insult: Crazy Frog
Dressing up montage: 1, frustratingly
Hardy: Poor guy. I mean he is a bit of a dick.
Mission: Destroy Love (2014)
Also known as: Sejoli
Director: Osman Ali
Writer: Osman Ali
Bront Palarae – Joe
Maya Karin – Gina
Izara Aishah – Nita
Remy Ishak – Hardy