That Awkward Moment is one awkward movie

by Mark Burger

The aptly titled That Awkward Moment is the sort of romantic comedy that gives the genre a bad name. Echoing, however faintly, such popular small-screen situation comedies as “Sex in the City,” “Girls,” “Friends,” “Seinfeld,” this faint, big-screen sitcom might squeeze some pre-Valentine’s Day coin out of couples in a rom-com mood, but will likely and deservedly be squeezed out by other, better films before too long.

It can’t happen soon enough. With more smarm than charm on display, That Awkward Moment offers a contrived, unoriginal take on the age-old battle of the sexes. In this case, it’s the viewer who loses.

Executive producer Zac Efron plays Jason, the resident hunk tentatively embarking on an affair with writer Ellie (Imogen Poots), whom he first mistakes for a hooker (don’t ask). Miles Teller, who resembles a young John Cusack, basically has what would once have been the John Cusack role, wisecracking Daniel, trying to determine whether his relationship with actress Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis) is merely a hook-up or a prelude to something more. Michael B. Jordan plays Mikey, a doctor whose wife Vera (Jessica Lucas) has just dumped him.

The three self-styled playboys, best buds since college, banter and drink a lot, although rarely do they show any signs of intoxication. The same cannot be said of the film’s screenplay, which is self-satisfied to the point of smugness. Characters spout dialogue that smacks of sub-par Neil Simon or Nora Ephron, liberally sprinkled with profanity that feels unduly excessive in an ostensibly light-hearted and romantic context. It’s not whether these couples are made for each other, it’s that it’s impossible for an audience to care.

First-time writer/director Tom Gormican tries — and fails — to have it both ways, striving (sometimes desperately) to find a balance between endearing romance and raunchy comedy.

The end result is disastrous, stranding an attractive (and not unappealing) cast with tacky material that the actors are incapable of overcoming. That Awkward Feeling lives up — and down — to its title. It’s contrived, corny, and instantly forgettable. It’s awkward but it’s not funny. !

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