Zac Effron is Jason, a 20-or-so book-cover designer living in New York with his best friend and co-worker Daniel (The Spectacular Now‘s Miles Teller) and other best friend Mikey (Michael B. Jordan). Mikey discovers his wife canoodling with the lawyer who will eventually handle their divorce, and so he and Dan and Jason make a pact to remain single. However, Jason meets Ellie (Imogen Poots), they hit it off, but he’s reluctant to tell his friends because of, you know, the pact.
And Dan meets someone. And Mikey hooks up with someone. And they keep those trysts secret, too, because, again, pact. And to go any further meet be a spoiler, but so then would be any wild stab-in-Central-Park conjecture as to what happens.
That Awkward Moment isn’t a difficult movie to review, because it’s not very good. The dialogue plays like any mid-90s attempt to imitate Pulp Fiction — which is basically sitting around a table dwelling on the minute, trying to sound clever.
Jason, for example, believes it an incredibly profound insight that, when coming from a girl, nothing good ever follows the word, “So…” as in “So, where is this going?” a phrase I’m certain was the film’s title in at least one stage of development (but then they couldn’t say “Based on the popular meme!”), and yet, who reading this has not had an awkward break in the conversation when “So…” has led to intercourse?
Aside from that, there’s some noticeable steals from The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Anchorman (Teller’s character is half Ron Burgundy, half Paul Rudd imitating Ron Burgundy), Wedding Crashers, basically any Apatow or McKay-inspired comedy from a decade ago, and a handful of desperate attempts at zaniness that just seem confusing. Again, Jason shows up at Ellie’s birthday party wearing an incredibly inappropriate outfit, and yet, once he realizes his mistake, he still doesn’t change, or at least remove one of the offending articles.
Another moment suggests that the three friends urinate together, or at least are comfortable enough with each other that they can be in the same room while one or more of them relieves themselves. Unless the world has changed grossly in the last few years, I know of no one, no group of friends, no males who are comfortable with that. Nor can I believe that Ellie finds anything Jason says or does to be genuinely funny. 1) Because he isn’t, and 2) Because I think I’m funnier than he, and I know I’m not genuinely funny, and my significant other never laughs at any joke I make.
And then the plot, which, simultaneously makes no sense and makes you feel you’ve seen it hundreds of times before but can’t think of a specific example, perhaps because the other films had something else going on. But the pact the three make. It’s made early on with such casualness that I didn’t recall it was a pact until three-quarters through the film when one character mentions that he has to keep his relationship a secret lest he violate it. And that was my Awkward Moment — the moment I realized that this “pact” was the major plot point, likely the only plot point of the movie, which in turn meant it had to be violated, which in turn meant it had to be resolved, which in turn meant that I had to watch what I knew was going to unfold unfold for the next half hour.
And that’s my original point — or my main point, more accurately. Everything I’ve said about the movie I’ve said from the perspective of someone who’s seen a lot of movies. To me That Awkward Moment is unoriginal, unfunny, unappealing, and wholly mediocre. My expectations are higher. That doesn’t make me better than someone who would enjoy the movie, it just makes me less receptive to a film like this that copies a bunch of superior movies I’ve already seen.
That’s the stigma of a film critic — there’s a gap between us and the general audience, and the best way we can reconcile that is to suggest you see some other movies instead. If you like Zac Effron and want a quick laugh, by all means go and see the flick, you may enjoy it, and you’ll be happy to tell me I’m an idiot for not liking it. That’s fine, but there’s a lot of films you’ll enjoy a lot more. So…go see the ones I mentioned previously — you’ll be happier you did.