"That Awkward Moment" provides a case study. This R-rated bro-mantic comedy is no classic, but at least it builds to a prepared-for ending, and the last line is actually clever.
And then — poof — the mood is broken with some outtakes of cast and crew flubbing lines or clowning between takes. And they're not even that funny.
But then "That Awkward Moment" has this problem already. The movie can't decide what it's going to be, veering from adolescent buddy comedy to gross-out fest (obligatory visit to sex shop included) to errant stabs at Woody Allen-lite.
The latter vibe is conjured up by the New York setting, some walks through the park, and a wistful air beneath the sex jokes. Our three heroes have made a pact; following the lead of the rakish Jason (Zac Efron), they agree not to get seriously involved with any woman, especially after married man Mike (Michael B. Jordan) discovers his wife has been cheating.
The wisecracking third musketeer, Daniel (Miles Teller, from "The Spectacular Now"), has long been platonic friends with Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis). Which means the time is just about perfect for him to notice that Chelsea is a knockout and he's an idiot if he doesn't try to woo her.
They're all idiots, of course — the word comes up often in first-time director Tom Gormican's script. The movie may be satirizing its dudes-first heroes, but it also enjoys their hyper-macho behavior ("Who are you, Bridget Jones?" the guys taunt a despondent Mike, when he tries to drown his sorrows in ice cream).
The film's got some things going for it, especially in the energy of the actors. The lads get some amusing banter going, even if all this seems to come a little too easily to Zac Efron and even if Michael B. Jordan (who should've been Oscar-nominated for his "Fruitvale Station" performance) is a better straight actor than we see here.
Mackenzie Davis is a real find and Imogen Poots ("Fright Night"), as the lady most likely to break Jason from his sacred "roster" of hookups, is already a starlet well on the rise. They find just enough unpredictable moments to paper over a tepid premise.
Of course, whatever good will the film has going goes phffft during the end credits. That shtick belongs in a certain kind of movie: Come back, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, all is forgiven.
"That Awkward Moment" (two stars)
Three bros in New York City agree to shun relationships, which means they'll probably start meeting women they really like. This R-rated comedy has an appealing cast (Zac Efron, Imogen Poots, Miles Teller), but can't decide whether to get serious or get gross.
Rated: R for language, subject matter.
Showing: Alderwood Mall, Cinebarre, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Stanwood, Oak Tree, Pacific Place, Woodinville, Cascade Mall.
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