All Roads Lead to Happy Endings in Netflix’s Interactive ‘Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’ Special
Five years after being rescued from the bunker in which she was held captive for 15 years by a mad man (Jon Hamm), Kimmy Schmidt (Ellie Kemper) must go on a journey before she can wed her true love (Daniel Radcliffe) in the Netflix’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend.” Using the “choose your own adventure” style of storytelling this interactive feature allows the viewer to drive the story, providing hilarious options and twists. Kemper is supported by the same stellar ensemble from the original sitcom, as well as by cameos from Fred Armisen, Johnny Knoxville, Heidi Gardner, Bowen Yang and more.
When we last saw Kimmy early last year, she was a bestselling author, having conquered her trauma and channeled it into a children’s book aimed to combat toxic masculinity in young boys. Now, she is all set to marry a British prince, Frederick (Radcliffe, who fits in perfectly in this world), but her happiness is disturbed by a discovery in Jan S. Port (Stephanie D’Abruzzo), her anthropomorphic backpack. She finds a choose-your-own-adventure book that was last checked out from a middle school in 2003, three years after she was kidnapped. After chatting with fellow kidnapee Cyndee (Sara Chase), she comes to the conclusion that there must have been another girl whom the Reverend (Hamm) took, one who was most likely never found after his arrest, a horrifying revelation. Now, it’s up to Kimmy to save the girl, or girls, which means leaving behind her husband-to-be and going on an adventure.
Joining Kimmy is her former roommate Titus (Titus Burgess), who, after years of struggle, is finally a bona fide star. He’s also married to lovable construction worker Mikey (Mike Carlsen, who’s sadly underused here). Accompanying Kimmy means he has to bail on a major action film he’s been cast in, leaving his agent Jacqueline (Jane Krakowski) to cover for him on set. Meanwhile, Lillian (Carol Kane), Kimmy and Titus’ former landlady, takes over the wedding preparations with Frederick, whom she helps work through some mommy issues.
Before she can move forward, Kimmy must confront her past, which means facing the Reverend, Richard Wayne Gary Wayne, in person at his prison in Indiana. Because the Reverend is such an evil man, he has to be totally ridiculous to work in a comedy, and Hamm does not disappoint. From there, Kimmy and Titus head off to West Virginia in search of the other bunker.
As the premise of the original series dealt with a victim of abduction and sex abuse trying to build a normal life, creators Tina Fey and Robert Carlock always had the challenge of balancing the light with the dark, and it’s the same deal with the movie. They make it work because the character of Kimmy is always treated with respect, and they always know when to stop. Even at the darkest point, when Kimmy has the opportunity to kill the Reverend and we are given multiple weapon options (and most viewers are going to take him out every which way, of course), they rein it in by putting him in the most comical version of Hell, complete with non-stop Sugar Ray and sexual predator puppet Mr. Frumpus.
Since “30 Rock,” and even before during her days as head writer at “Saturday Night Live,” Fey has always had a knack for inserting feminist humor into her shows with ease, and she does it again here. Stuck on the set of Titus’ film stalling for him, Jacqueline, in one version, ends up having to listen to the pompous male writer (Zach Orth) drone on and on, and one has to wonder how many times Fey herself has found herself in similar situations. #MeToo also gets a shout out. One version of the movie set subplot ends with Jacqueline revealing her deceit to the crew, and the men respond by declaring this an end to #BelieveWomen, which goes about as well as one can imagine.
We root for Kimmy because she remains optimistic and pure of heart during all of her ordeals, from the truly awful to the extremely silly. Through it all, our heroine remains the moral compass for herself and her pals; she is always driven to do the right thing. Even when the viewer makes the wrong choice for her, they are quickly reversed. Still, there are enough alternate choices for the viewer to go back again and again.
“Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend” begins streaming May 12 on Netflix.