Entertainment :: Movies

That Awkward Moment

by Padraic Maroney
Contributor
Friday Jan 31, 2014
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Zac Efron in a scene from ’That Awkward Moment’
Zac Efron in a scene from ’That Awkward Moment’  (Source:Focus Features)

Most successful romantic comedies centers on an unlucky in love girl. Women are the bread and butter of the genre -- both onscreen and at the box office buying tickets -- as they try to make their way through the rough dating waters. That Awkward Moment attempts to flip the script by putting a trio of men in the roles that women would usually occupy. In the process of offering a role reversal, the film offers an uneven script that proves to know nothing about either gender.

Mikey (Michael B. Jordan, "Fruitvale Station") is a successful emergency room doctor and happily married. His seemingly perfect life is upended when his wife tells him that she has been cheating on him and wants a divorce. To cheer him up, his two best friends try to take him out and welcome him back to being single. In solidarity, Jason (Zac Efron) and Daniel (Miles Teller, "21 and Over") decide to make a pact to stay single with Mikey. Just as they make the pact, however, Jason and Daniel both meet the women of their dreams.

The paper-thin plot becomes tedious after each of the guys starts to fall for one of the women in their lives. As they fall deeper and deeper in love, they attempt to hide their relationships from each other by ridiculing the others for supposedly breaking the pact. It isn’t done in a screwball comedic way of double lives or hidden agendas; rather, it is done without a single laugh.

Writer-director Tom Gormican, who is making his feature debut in both capacities, offers a script that is confused about its intentions. Its identity crisis leads to a film that wants to be a guy’s romantic comedy while also satisfying the female audience members and ends up coming across unevenly. When dealing with the romantic entanglements of the leading men, the film is so sickeningly sweet that you could end up with cavities. The rest of the time, the film may as well have been written by a couple of fraternity brothers.

That’s not to say that there aren’t some laughs to be had in the film, but this is a film where most of the goods have already been spoiled by the trailer. The film is at its strongest when the guys are interacting by themselves. If only it could have been a buddy comedy, many of the film’s problems would have been solved. With a trifecta of leading men, "That Awkward Moment" has plenty of eye candy, but it’s lacking in charisma. Jordan is the only one who effortlessly inhabits his character. While Efron has the looks of a guy who has a roster of girls at his beck and call, he rarely seems fully invested in the role. However, his inclination to spend much of his screen time in various states of undress is a welcome sight. With each of the actors on the verge of bigger stardom with promising roles coming up, "That Awkward Moment" will be seen as the film that started the ball rolling with its cast.

The female members of the cast, who are little more than scenery throughout the film, deserve better. Each of the actresses show a spark of excitement, but they are not given anything to do. Mackenzie Davis, in particular, shows promise as a platonic friend who turns into something more with Daniel. Jessica Lucas, as Michael’s cheating wife, is the only actress given any kind of substance. Her arc, however, is also one of the weakest elements of the film due to the obviousness of its outcome. The romantic comedy genre isn’t one that usually offers too many surprises along the way to the happily ever after, but this is one of the least surprising outcomes the genre has seen in a long time.

"That Awkward Moment" is attempting to have its cake and eat it by offering something for guys and women. But it never gets raunchy enough to entice guys to see a "chick flick" and it is too predictable and syrupy to keep girls from getting bored. The real awkward moment is when you realize that you’ve been hoodwinked into watching a movie that doesn’t live up to the promise of its trailers.

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