"The film almost captures independent film sensibilities from its approach of three guys trying to stay together and have a close bond with criminally lame and uninteresting mainstream raunch for a combination that almost fails on-sight."
That Awkward Moment has many awkward moments because of the fact it takes three hot stars who've all just been in great films and brings them down several notches so they can function at the third-rate screenplay's level. The thing is That Awkward Moment isn't even bad for a unique reason, like its message is banal, its ideas are flawed, or its characters do things that make them woefully unlikable. Instead, it's bad because of the fact that the film is interchangeable, consistently unfunny, boringly tame and listless, and somehow manages to give three hot commodities a chance to say nothing interesting at all.
The plot involves Jason (Zac Efron), Daniel (Miles Teller), and Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), three buds who are trying to adhere to their responsibilities of being good friends to each other in every way they can. Jason and Daniel are single, but need to come to the rescue of Mikey, whose wife wants a divorce and has cheated on him with a divorce lawyer, who, we are reminded time and time again, looks like Morris Chestnut, one of the many stale running gags of the film. The three, after that, try to make a pact to stay single and have fun being young and being there for one another.
But that awkward moment when you make a pact that big for your friend going through a divorce and suddenly you two meet the right girls. Indeed, Jason and Daniel spend one night at a bar and ultimately find two women they are very interested in, the film taking the most time to give Jason's recent catch Ellie (Imogen Poots) quite a bit of screentime. Now, the three guys juggle even more responsibilities with women in the mix, while trying to help Mikey out in any way they can.
I mentioned the abundance of running gags, which the film seems to erect at any conceivable turn, be it Daniel's frequent use of Jason's bathroom, the fact that Mikey has mistaken tanning lotion for regular lotion and, after a night of private fun, has an orange penis, and the aforementioned joke about Mikey's wife's new flame looking like Morris Chestnut. These running gags would be great if they were somewhat funny and not used as either senseless shock value or an attempt to utilize the film's very tame R-rating. It's true, I frequently complain when a film dilutes its material from R to PG-13 to achieve more viewership, especially amongst a teenage audience, but then there are films like That Awkward Moment that waste their R-rating on something as boring and as deflated as a two minute walk inside a sex-shop to admire the variety of dildos and sex toys. Throughout the rest of the film, we get sporadic swearing that feels like it's being used by people who just discovered the words and frequent discussion of hookers akin to what you'd hear on the CBS primetime lineup. This is the tamest R-rated film I've seen so far this year.
Then there's the fact that this particular film does what I never thought could be possible - take three of the most charismatic actors working today, each of them who have recently worked in very great films, and make them out to be some of the most ordinary people who reside in a boring world. The film almost captures independent film sensibilities from its approach of three guys trying to stay together and have a close bond with criminally lame and uninteresting mainstream raunch for a combination that almost fails on-sight.
As a little exercise for me and as an assistance to you, the reader and potential viewer of That Awkward Moment, let me offer some other great suggestions by the same people in this film. Zac Efron may be bound to the High School Musical-image in some people's eyes, but his work in both 17 Again, a charming little comedy along with At Any Price, show him at a different, more assured level of acting than many would believe, especially in the latter film, where great subject matter of holding ones values and priorities close to them is explored. Miles Teller is only beginning and will soon develop into a larger name, seeing as his film The Spectacular Now, a wonderful teen-romantic comedy, was a big hit and possessed tones of true seriousness, and his recent effort Whiplash has been praised heavily at Sundance. Finally, there's Michael B. Jordan, who will likely have one of the most interesting futures for a young actor. Jordan was the lead actor in Fruitvale Station, my favorite film of 2013, which proved to be an experience of impeccable emotion and a perfect illustration of a how random, daily events shape our character and personality.
I just batted off five films you could look into that are all higher-in-quality than That Awkward Moment. To see That Awkward Moment over any of those is like going to a formal party with an obnoxious, sexual costume and not leaving promptly - embarrassing and shameful.
Review by Steve Pulaski, Lead Film CriticShare: