Movie Review: Natalie Morales makes a disastrous “Starman” acting choice in “I’m Totally Fine”

I cringe so much every time I have to pummel a really bad performance that I avoid doing so at almost all costs. There are so many things that can go wrong in the making of a bad film — script, direction, cast chemistry, tone — that it is pointlessly mean to single out the poor people playing the poorly written parts.

But what thin promise “I’m Totally Fine” makes to us in its opening scenes — a grieving woman (Jillian Bell) drives to a rural SoCal rental house for a party she forgot to cancel — vanishes in a flash the moment the dead best friend/business partner (Natalie Morales of “Happily,” “Stuber” and TV’s “Dead to Me”) manifests herself before her.

The inane script has the dead friend brought back to life by an alien, an advanced and curious but naive and tone-deaf “Starman” in female form. Morales makes the disastrous — no other word for it — decision to play the character in a stunningly unfunny, unaffecting and college acting class incompetent impersonation of Mork, Starman or Lieutenant Data.

“‘Boogie Woogie Woogie,'” she says in a flat, metallic attempt at appearing otherworldly. “That was Jennifer’s favorite wedding song.”

Vanessa (Bell, of “Office Christmas Party, “22 Jump Street” etc.) tries writing this off to a hangover, grief, a “ghost” or what have you. A holographic “Human Orientation” presentation half convinces her that this Jennifer-look-alike in the “Darling, You’re Different” T-shirt is interplanetary.

Jennifer chugging olive oil for its lubrication/anti-freeze qualities should seal the deal. The alien is here to “do tests” and “study” us. For 48 hours. Poor Vanessa — a dead friend and business partner and now this.

“This body seems designed for dancing.” On Vanessa bursting into tears — “We do not have crying. This is valuable data. Thank you.”

It’s fingersnails-dragged-across-a-blackboard until they’re bloody unfunny, cringe-worthy in the worst sense.

Bell delivers a deflated performance that gives away the fact that as a former “SNL” writer, sitcom creator (“Badsitter”) and cast member of a few rowdy comedies that actually play — “The Night Before,” “Bridesmaids,” “Office Christmas Party”) — she knows this isn’t getting there.

The sentimental stuff is limp and unaffecting. Bit players in support struggle to wring a laugh out of the Molly-offering DJ Vanessa forgot to cancel, the hovering husband checking in by Facetime constantly out of concern or the helpful good ol’boy who isn’t the serial killer Vanessa tells her friend from Roswell she might be.

No, one cannot and should not blame Morales all of this, much of it laid at the feet of screenwriter Alisha Ketry, whose script plays like an inept piece of pandemic typewriting, a “movie we can get made for little money” and under isolation restrictions. But if Morales is anxious for “I’m Totally Fine” to die a silent, unnoticed death, one can see and hear why in most every word to come out of her mouth here.

Rating: unrated, profanity

Cast: Jillian Bell and Natalie Morales.

Credits: Directed by Brandon Dermer, scripted by Alisha Ketry. A Decal release.

Running time: 1:23

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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