That Awkward Moment

Movie Information

The Story: When hardcore player Jason falls in love he has trouble coming to terms with the changes in his worldview. The Lowdown: Extremely predictable, flat and lame, but it looks nice and has a few good moments — too few to make the difference.
Genre: Raunchy Rom-Com for Guys
Director: Tom Gormican
Starring: Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan, Miles Teller, Imogen Poots, Mackenzie Davis, Jessica Lucas
Rated: R

I have no clue what the people involved in making the awkward movie known as That Awkward Moment thought they were doing. Whatever it was, they were wrong. No, it’s not the worst thing I’ve seen this year, and I will doubtless see many worse before the year is out. Mostly, I was bored by it. It’s likely I only retained consciousness due to the sound of one lone person down front chuckling at the lame jokes. (This is not a recommendation. I know this person and he generally laughs pretty heartily and distinctively at all comedies. Mere chuckles are no endorsement.) I suspect the idea was to make an R-rated rom-com for guys — or, worse yet, for “bros.” Mostly, what they did was assemble a cast that feels like some variant on the old Mod Squad tagline of “one white, one black, one blonde,” but redefined as “one cute, one black, one bland.” Some have opined that this is a male version of Sex and the City (as if that would be desirable), but, in truth, it’s mostly a standard rom-com — right down to the penultimate reel of gloom. I won’t tell you what’s in the last reel, but I’m betting you can guess.

The title refers to a point — that awkward moment — when the girl you’re seeing asks, “So where is this going?” indicating that she wants a relationship. It is — according to Jason (Zac Efron) — the moment you run in the opposite direction. It is this supremely shallow credo that not only guides his life, but it’s what he wants his friends — Daniel (Miles Teller) and Mikey (Michael B. Jordan) to apply to their lives. He becomes especially zealous when Mikey’s wife dumps him, an event Jason views as a chance for the three to regain their old ways. Now, let’s be honest here — I’m assuming you’ve seen a movie or two in your time — we all know where this is going. Jason will see the error of his vain and disordered life when he finds True Love. But since the movie has 90 minutes to fill, you can be sure that this will be a difficult path. While I don’t mind it being a difficult path for the characters, I object strenuously to it being one for the viewer. That, unfortunately, is the direction chosen by writer-director Tom Gormican — a first-time offender, whose presence as one of umpteen producers, co-producers, etc., on last year’s dreadful Movie 43 I am inclined to overlook. This is at least better than that. Of course, a sub-par episode of My Mother the Car would win that comparison.

I will admit that it’s not all terrible. The scene where Jason and Ellie (the unfortunately named Imogen Poots) meet is actually pretty cute and cleverly scripted. Moreover, it becomes reasonably well (if not entirely believably) worked into the big scene at the end. However, what comes in between is confused, largely unfunny and is ultimately little more than the movie marking time to meander from point A to point Z. The film seems to be made on the assumption that if all the characters are good looking — or at least good lookingish — no one will notice the lame jokes or the attempt to establish the hip-ness of the characters using pop-culture references — many of which were so dated that even an aging curmudgeon like me could get them. In other words, it all comes across as a middle-aged notion of hip — like a Beach Party movie for 2014.

A lot of critics seem to find the movie offensive, which I not only don’t see, but which attributes seem to overstate the film’s intellect. I seriously doubt That Awkward Moment has enough brains to be offensive. It’s certainly not important enough to be offended by. At bottom, it’s just a not-good movie that has the plus of being full of mostly pleasant-looking people and is pretty professionally made in the bargain. There are worse crimes of cinema — and I saw a couple of potential ones in the trailers before this. Rated R for sexual content and language throughout

Playing at Carmike 10.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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