It’s pretty ironic that a comedy called “That Awkward Moment” is radically lacking in awkward moments. The film isn’t without some potentially uncomfortable setups like walking in on two people having sex, realizing you’ve just had sex with a hooker, and showing up to a fancy party in a racy outfit. “That Awkward Moment” never goes all the way with its awkward humor, though. Scenes often feel incomplete, as if the director yelled, “cut,” before getting to the punch line. As a result, the film fails to deliver any genuine awkward humor or humor in general.
Zac Efron is in his comfort zone as Jason, a book cover illustrator who’s great at picking up ladies and lousy at holding onto them. His best friend and colleague is Daniel, played by Miles Teller of “The Spectacular Now.” They also have a token black friend named Mikey, played by Michael B. Jordan. For the record, that’s the Michael Jordan from last year’s “Fruitvale Station” and not the one from “Space Jam.” After Mikey is dumped by his wife, the three pals make a pact to stay single indefinitely. Nevertheless, the guys each fall in love and act like jerks when its time to commit.
Although he’s still heavily ripped on for his “High School Musical” days, Efron makes for a perfectly suitable lead. He may never be Leonardo DiCaprio, but I’ll take him over Justin Bieber or either of those wimps from “Twilight” any day. Teller and Jordan score a couple funny moments as the best friends. The various love interests, which includes Imogen Poots and Mackenzie Davis, give it their all despite having nothing to work with. They simply can’t salvage “That Awkward Moment,” however, as the film is a colossal failure on a character level.
If shows such as “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “The Inbetweeners,” and “The Office” have taught us anything, it’s that great awkward comedy comes from characters who are socially inept. But nobody in “That Awkward Moment” is especially awkward. They’re all smooth talking, well dressed, financially successful, sexually confident individuals. The film isn’t really a laugh-per-minute comedy based on awkward situations like “There’s Something About Mary” or “American Pie.” It’s more of an analysis of relationships like “Friends With Benefits” or “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Even on that basis, the script isn’t nearly as funny, charming, or smart as first time writer/director Tom Gormican thinks it is.
There’s a scene towards the end of the film where a character makes a heartfelt speech in front of a crowd of strangers, proclaiming his love for the girl of his dreams. Of course the girl takes him back and the crowd applauds. Instead of being like every other romantic comedy in existence, why couldn’t “That Awkward Moment” have lived up to its title in that instance? Why couldn’t this character have given a totally meandering speech, been dumped by the girl, and humiliate himself in front of everyone? Now that would have been an awkward moment.
• Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.