It’s a bad sign that a movie is coming out that I knew nothing about. It wasn’t screened for critics and I hadn’t seen a single trailer for it. I just happened to be at the Reading Town Square cinema, trying to talk myself out of seeing the latest Addams Family. When I saw there was a comedy starring Adam DeVine, I was in. I used to love watching him on Workaholics and even when he’s in bad movies, he cracks me up with his facial expressions (as he does in this).
That doesn’t mean this is a great comedy. It’s far from it. It’s rather lazy writing from Jon Lucas and Scott Moore (not to be confused with Elvis’ guitarist). They’re the guys that co-wrote films like The Hangover, Bad Moms, and three underrated comedies — Office Christmas Party, 21 and Over, and The Change-Up. (my friend loves their Four Christmases, but I remember being surprised that I only laughed 3 times during that)
My wife said before the movie started, “You know this is going to be awful, right?”
I explained that the beauty of comedies is, even if they aren’t great, you laugh a handful of times. That’s better than a drama that’s bad, and doesn’t have a single redeemable thing about it.
You can also excuse any crazy premise, and…I’m not sure what’s a more difficult one to accept in this. The fact that your cell phone app Jexi can take over your life and torment you…or that a schlub (Adam DeVine), could rudely walk into and knock down a beautiful woman (Alexandra Shipp of Love, Simon) and she’d still be interested in him.
Rose Byrne, who I loved as Seth Rogen’s wife in Neighbors, shows she can do comedy…as the rather robotic voice of Jexi, who is set on making Phil’s life better. That means when he wants to order some Chinese food on his phone, she has a kale salad delivered instead. When a few co-workers (Charlyne Yi and Ron Funches, both of whom deserved a bit more to do) try to get him to join the staff kickball team, he’s having none of it. Jexi gets him involved, and he has fun playing.
It was great seeing Michael Pena play the clueless and mean boss, and he has fun with the crazy character, who is obsessed with how many hits his writers’ Top 10 lists get. He also likes the staff to beatbox with their mouths when he leaves the room. I’m laughing again just thinking about that.
Wanda Sykes, who always kills me on screen, is perfect as the snarky phone sales person. She has a few funny scenes that fit in nicely.
Justin Hartley of This is Us, shows up as the old boyfriend/new rival of Phil, and just as Owen Wilson’s character was done in Meet the Parents — he’s the perfect guy.
It’s kind of fun the way Jexi is trying so hard to help Phil not screw up his new romance, but then turns all evil, Talky Tina on him [side note: surprisingly, my wife Tina had never seen that episode of The Twilight Zone where Telly Savalas is tormented by the evil doll he can’t get rid of; so that reference is probably lost on anyone under the age of 50].
The cinematography by Ben Kutchins was annoying. A lot of shaky-cam moments, and sporadically zooming in on shots.
The movie will be compared to Her (the Spike Jonez / Joaquin Phoenix picture), and it’s a shame that many will not compare it to one of the most interesting movies of the year from last month — Auggie (Richard Kind).
It’s hardly a great comedy, but even now, I can remember a handful of scenes that made me laugh out loud. When Phil opens the phone, kisses it, and thanks all the little children in China who made it; or him tossing his Jexi phone onto the couch to go on a date, only to have it say, “I thought we were going to watch ‘Cupcake Wars’ together. Nobody puts baby in a corner!”
If you’re looking for a film to give you a few laughs, you could do worse.
2 ½ stars out of 5.