If That Awkward Moment wanted to be a standard decently funny rom-com, I wouldn’t have minded. I would’ve been disappointed and miffed a smidgen because I know the leading talent in front of the camera deserves (and can deliver) better results, but this could’ve been that inching exception. If typical scary movies can keep horror hounds busy until the January doldrums end, why can’t the romantic comedy genre have its “free pass” as well?
Accepting an unoriginal comedy with a rudimentary plot involving a group of best buds, a “no relationships” pact, and opposite leading ladies with looks and quirk is strenuous by now, but That Awkward Moment provided me with enough modest giggles during the first few scenes that I was willing to let it pass as harmless fluff.
The main men in Tom Gormican’s directorial debut are The Spectacular Now’s Miles Teller, Fruitvale Station’s Michael B. Jordan, and former Disney dreamboat Zac Efron (who also executive produced the film). I had a hard time believing these characters were best friends since all three roles are as deep as a saucepan. However, I was convinced these three actors had fun bouncing off each other. The chemistry among them shows in their timing and with their “yes, and…” reactions.
This, along with individual moments during one night at a club, was enough for me to keep on smiling throughout the first handful of scenes.
That Awkward Moment borrows heavily from early Judd Apatow work. It lifts that chucklehead brat pack brotherhood type of humour that happily opens doors for slight improv and legitimate earnesty during sarcastic jabs. The film even has a running joke where Teller and Efron rip on Jordan comparing his accidentally tanned member to other irrelevant things.
The chuckles eventually dwindled off and what little charisma the rom-com had after these introductions left as well. It slips into a boneheaded formula where roles become less practical and increasingly thicker. I always resist to use curt words like “dumb” or “stupid” in the context of critiquing a movie and its characters. But, when explaining this movie’s route, I have no other choice.
That Awkward Moment isn’t a “battle of the sexes” scenario, but each sex tries to figure out each other. It’s a bit of a hard task when the men seem to be getting in touch with their inner neanderthal and the women become more gullible and forgiving. The mechanics from a 1950’s sitcom have been dusted off and applied to this very thick screenplay. And, if men and women patrons can’t agree with how they’re being portrayed in a film, then who is the movie for?
It’s a film that promises it’ll “be real” but proceeds to check off every romantic comedy trope as if its proud to say, “yes, we even have THAT scene.” Since the exterior of the film has a plastic presence and the dialogue is written intentionally crude to capture “guy talk”, there’s an overall disconnect between the audience and the movie. As well as an ever-growing grudge with the main three men. When Gormican’s script deals with solemn matter to give That Awkward Moment its substance, that weight acts as a smothering wet towel.
The jokes that you may have laughed at while watching the film’s trailer have been ruined by rusty editing and dopey comedic writing. For instance, a gag involving misunderstood costume attire has been cut and designed in a way to capitalize on that titled “awkwardness”, losing all potential flare and dragging out unnatural and unfunny responses.
In a last minute lunge to make me remember my halfway support for the comedy and that smile I was wearing at the beginning of the film, That Awkward Moment has the expected gag reel to show audiences how lively the production was. Unfortunately, with each limp outtake, I felt more gloomy and I slunk lower in my seat. My theatre was so silent, you could hear a pin drop. Talk about awkward.