That Awkward Moment

It’s February, so of course we’re going to get movies like ‘That Awkward Moment’, ‘About Last Night’, ‘Winter’s Tale’, and ‘Endless Love’. Are any of these worth seeing? The trailers for all four made me cringe, but I was the most hopeful about ‘That Awkward Moment’ if only for its very appealing cast.

‘That Awkward Moment’ is a bromatic comedy about two confirmed bachelors (Zac Efron and Miles Teller) who agree to stay single to prove their solidarity to their married friend (Michael B. Jordan) whose wife is leaving him.  Of course, because this is a rom-com, the moment you make such a pact, the right girl comes along.

This is a very tame R-rated picture. All the profanity and sexual content is reserved for a scene in a stag shop where, ah, cover your eyes, we see dildos. This is followed by an “Oh, I thought you said was a costume party” running gag that first-time sitcom screenwriters would dismiss as too hackneyed.

I couldn’t wait for this movie to be over; even with a runtime of 94 minutes, the picture felt like it was 240 minutes long. The outtakes at the end (featuring scenes of actors fumbling their lines or unable to hold in their laughter) served as an act of desperation; it’s as if the filmmakers are saying “We’re not sure if we made you laugh during the movie, but, hey, we’ll have you laughing on the way out of it.” But, you probably won’t be laughing at that either, which brings us to the realization that the material on the cutting room wasn’t funny, and neither was the end product. 

Dude, where’s the comedy? I feel as though the screenwriters had a checklist of topics and assigned a running gag to each one without any thought or creativity – “Hey, let’s make a joke out of Miles Teller taking a dump in Zac Efron’s apartment. Not just once. Not just twice. How about the guys taking Viagra and having to urinate horizontally?” I’ll admit I laughed a few times, but for the most part, the filmmakers’ attempt to walk the line between bromantic comedy and ‘Animal House’-like humor falls completely flat. 

Almost every comic situation ends with a character telling someone else “You’re an idiot”, “You’re an a-hole”, “You’re a f***ing idiot”. This isn’t just lazy writing; it’s not even a joke because it’s entirely true.  The lengths to which these characters go to maintain this idiotic pact (which essentially functions as a device for such shenanigans to take place) is just cruel and nasty.  Their vow doesn’t bear enough weight to excuse these characters of some truly awful behavior.

The material is so shop worn. And what little precious insight it has to offer us – let’s see: men-are-like-this (say they don’t want commitment but they really do) and women-are-like-this (shoes are more important than anything else in life). Offensive stereotypes aside, countless other films have explored this in a more fully realized way – ‘When Harry Met Sally’ is a very good example of how such material has been handed well.

‘That Awkward Moment’ has a very charming cast, but they’re not given very much to do.  And that is why the picture is a wasted opportunity. Michael B. Jordan (‘Fruitvale Station’ – last year’s Sundance Audience and Jury winner) and Miles Teller (last year’s ‘Spectacular Now’ and whose movie ‘Whiplash’ won both the Audience and Jury awards at this year’s Sundance Film Festival) have great acting careers ahead of them. ‘That Awkward Moment’ will not be of the entries included within their distinguished filmography. Zac Efron does have potential but is struggling to find the right vehicle to propel him from ‘High School Musical’ teen into a grown-up movie star. His previous attempt at this transition resulted in Nicole Kidman urinating on him in ‘The Paperboy’. At least this is a step up. Well, not really. QED.

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