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A story that begins with "boy meets girl" should have an infinite number of possibilities ahead of it. But in the mainstream romantic comedy genre, it seems we usually only see the same ideas done over and over again. What separates writer/director Tom Gormican’s That Awkward Moment from most of its brethren is that it doesn’t just execute one cliché-ridden idea – it executes three.
The film begins as three ordinary (but still way “cooler” than you’ll ever been) guys living in New York find themselves all embroiled in some kind of trope-filled drama. There’s Jason (Zac Efron), the extremely handsome lothario who refuses to settle down, but may have just met the love of his life (Imogen Poots). Then there’s Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), the married, responsible young man who finds himself getting divorced because his wife (Jessica Lucas) believes that he has stopped living life. And finally, there’s Daniel (Miles Teller), the guy who has accidentally fallen in love with his best female friend (Mackenzie Davis) and must deal with all of the consequences that start up with having a sexual relationship. Don’t strain yourself trying to figure out what the ending of the film is. I can guarantee that you would be able to nail a guess on the first try.
While a complete lack of originality doesn’t entirely disqualify That Awkward Moment from viewing consideration, what does really knock it out is a complete lack of any real entertainment value. In addition to being entirely fueled by stock characters we’ve seen hundreds of time before, the movie features scene after scene of stilted, tin-ear dialogue that sounds off both in moments of exposition (like when three friends are walking the street and Jason blatantly explains what it means to have “a roster” of back-pocket sexual hookups), and in “free-flowing” conversation (such as when the friends bicker about whether or not peanut butter cup ice cream goes with scotch). While there are maybe a few spots in the film that do earn a chuckle, ultimately they are so drowned out by bad dick and self-tanner jokes, they feel pointless to look back on.
Given the movie’s rating, one might expect that it would at least get a few laughs out of a string of curse words or maybe a few gross out gags, but That Awkward Moment can’t even bother to live up to baseline R-rated comedy standards. It feels like the studio couldn’t decide whether or not it wanted a PG-13 rating, and by the time the R-rating decision was made, it was just too late to make the film actually “mature.” The closest the film gets to a raunchy gag is a sequence where both Jason and Daniel have to “pee horizontally” due to having Viagra erections, but it just feels tame and stupid instead of funny. I’m not saying the film could have been completely saved by having characters say “fuck” more, or by having a few more over-the-top moments, but it at least would have stood a better chance at actually being entertaining instead of just boring.
Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller and Zac Efron are among the most talented young actors working in Hollywood right now, but That Awkward Moment is a film that does none of them any favors - and for the sake of their careers would probably do best by just being completely forgotten.