There are two projects that came out this month in theaters made by alumni from “The Hangover” trilogy. The first was Todd Phillip’s “Joker,” which has already been covered on the site. And then there’s this gem from writers Scott Moore and Jon Lucas, who also have directing credits with this film.
Adam Devine plays Phil, an aspiring journalist who is obsessed with social media. After his phone breaks, he gets a replacement from a saleswoman (Wanda Sykes) who vents the movie’s message of people being obsessed with their phones. But unlike the iPhone, the phone’s AI is Jexi (voiced by Robin Byrne), who forces Phil to improve his life. And so he does; he takes risks, develops friendships with co-workers (Ron Funches and Charlyne Yi), falls in love with Cate (Alexandra Shipp), an outdoorsy girl that Phil fancies. But as he changes, Jexi starts to develop feelings for Phil and grows obsessive.
Adam Devine’s performance is a mix. While he captures the usual adorkable characters he’s generally plays, it sometimes feels like he’s hamming it up. There are moments that left me cringing over how over the top he’s playing the character. The bright spot was his relationship with Alexandra Shipp’s character. Their relationship had me wanting the two of them to keep together. The rest of the cast don’t have much to give. The friends don’t have much of a personality outside of “nice,” the jerk boss played by Michael Peña is a jerk, and Wanda Sykes feels like a mouthpiece for the movie’s theme. And then you have Robin Byrne’s performance which felt like it was trying to emulate Scarlett Johansson ’s character in “Her.”
The movie feels a lot like a comedic version of a “Black Mirror” episode. There’s just one problem; they screwed up on the comedy part. Every joke is either a sex joke or a jab at millennial culture. Ranging from parodies of modern dating culture and BuzzFeed, these jokes feel like every Baby Boomer’s rant about “kids these days.” While the shift in Jexi’s support is foreshadowed naturally, it feels expected and weird with how the dynamic set it up. There’s one scene where Phil charges his phone and is framed to simulate sex.
As I left the theater, I thought back to a quote from the movie that summarized my feelings: “This sucks.” While the performances from Devine and Shipp stood out in the film, the rest of it was a chore to sit through. Of all the ways a movie can be called bad, being a bad comedy is the worst thing it can be, because there are only so many ways you can say “that’s not funny” before it sounds redundant.