It's the dog days of winter, a time when the temperature barely crests above the single digits and all hope seems to have been frozen, like the pipes running into your bathroom. So, it seems like a good time of year to unleash a fuzzy, dudes-on-the-town romantic comedy exercise, full of R-rated ribbing and ribald sight gags. Wouldn't you say?
Well, that's what you're going to get with "That Awkward Moment." The film, written and directed by Tom Gormican, follows three dudes who are also BFFs (played by Sundance sensation Miles Teller, former Disney heartthrob Zac Efron, and serious contender Michael B. Jordan). The trio gets really close after Jordan's wife leaves him (for her lawyer, who is also overseeing the divorce), but also causes them to conceal parts of their lives from each other. This leads to hilariously catastrophic consequences. Or something. There are also a few women in the cast (including the always amazing Imogen Poots).
Of course, is "That Awkward Moment" enough to get you to brave the polar vortexes to get to the theater. Or is this one better watched in a half decade, playing on TNT with all the swears replaced by weirdly similar words that still sound totally out of place? Read on to find out.
1. The Dudes' Chemistry Is Great
The hardest part of any of these types of movies is getting the right group of actors together to successfully convey the kind of camaraderie that suggests years (if not decades) of loyal friendship. At some point in the movie, Efron describes Jordan and Teller as his "college buddies," which suggests at least a half-decade of good bro hangs. And it's a testament to the commitment of the actors and the naturalness of their performances, that you totally, 100% believe that these guys are best buds. And, surprisingly, it's the quieter moments, the ones where they just kind of share space, where their bro chemistry (bro-chem?) really comes across.
2. Imogen Poots's Bangs Are Too Short
In my notes for the movie, there's one word that is scrawled into the page (I even circled it). That word is BANGS. For some reason Poots, a talented actress who has turned in memorable performances in everything from Neil Marshall's period war movie "Centurion" to the underrated horror remake "Fright Night" to the quiet Michael Douglas comedic drama "Solitary Man," has been saddled with quite possibly the worst bangs in a major motion picture. They're too short and do a disservice to the rest of her face, which is a shame considering her almost radioactive levels of adorableness. This is a weird thing to fixate on, but it must be mentioned. For the good of mankind.
3. It's Not Very Rude
The movie is being sold as a rowdy, R-rated comedy. Except the R-rating is mostly for the amount of F-bombs dropped -- there's very little sex (all of it coy and workmanlike), no nudity, and the harshest drug consumed on screen is a Viagra. Quite frankly, the title sequence of "The Wolf of Wall Street" is naughtier. And yes, I know there was no title sequence in "Wolf of Wall Street." That was a joke. The point is, it could have stood to be a little bit spicier. Especially since everyone is so cute.
4. There Is Staggeringly Little Conflict
Sometimes a movie coasts by on the barest of dramaturgical convictions. "That Awkward Moment" is one of those movies. There's very little conflict. There isn't a whole lot of drama. Strife seems to be almost completely removed. Everyone is more or less happy and attractive and stress-free, which is amazing, considering they are all young people living in Manhattan (not even Brooklyn or Queens), which is the most expensive place on the planet and pushes you to obscene, panic-attack-like levels when rent is due on your 50-square foot apartment.
5. Even the Mechanics of the 'Bet' Are Poorly Laid Out
The main thrust of the movie, as much as there is one (and, yes, pun very much intended), involves Jordan's character getting dumped by his wife and left for another man. The trio then hatch a kind of gentlemen's agreement that they'll all stay single with Jordan, remaining unattached for however long it takes him to get back on his feet again. Then, later in the movie, one of them mentions that they are, in fact, taking part in a "bet." A bet? When did this become so competitive and macho? I mean the guys are kind of doofuses (more on that in a minute), but what did they wager? None of this is explained and the movie is worse for it.
6. Manhattan Looks Great
As shot by wonderful cinematographer Brandon Trost (Rob Zombie's "Lords of Salem," the upcoming "Neighbors"), New York in wintertime looks fabulous. Much of the movie takes place in lower Manhattan, with the city taking on that kind of otherworldly shine that it somehow appropriates around the holidays. Of course, part of why it looks so amazing is because it is also totally unattainable. No way could these dudes, two of which work in nebulous art director jobs designing book covers (book covers? In 2014?), afford such swank accommodations. But still, it's totally lovely to look at.
7. An Actor From 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' Makes an Appearance
D.B. Woodside, who played Principle Robin Wood in the uneven final season of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," is in one scene in "That Awkward Moment." He plays the lawyer who Michael B. Jordan's wife is running away with, and for the rest of the movie is referred to as looking a lot like Morris Chestnut (he really does). It's nice to see Woodside, even if it is for one scene, and I'm pretty sure he doesn't have any dialogue. This also makes me think of one of the proposed "Buffy" spin-offs that involved Faith, Principle Wood, and Spike's otherworldly ghost. That would have been cool. Also, I miss "Buffy." Like, a lot.
8. The Movie's Depiction of Women is Problematic
So there are three main female characters in the movie: the love interests of all three of the guys. Each of the female characters is barely fleshed out -- Poots works in publishing (or something), Mackenzie Davis says that she works for Sotheby's, although what she does is unclear since none of the male characters seem all that interested in her job, and Jordan's wife (Jessica Lucas) isn't given a profession as much as she is assigned a host of loathsome traits and grievous dialogue. None of the women ever talk to each other (breaking one of the tenants of the movie successfully passing the Bechdel Test) and, more often than not, you get the sensation that the women merely serve as incredibly shallow plot devices. For a movie with so much downtime in the plot, it would have been nice to give the ladies something to do.
9. There Is a Fairly Lengthy Sequence Featuring a Prosthetic Penis
This movie, as I've mentioned earlier, is oddly chaste and prudish about sex, with one exception: There is a super-lengthy sequence in which Zac Efron goes to a dinner party wearing a comically large prosthetic penis. Too bad this sequence is preceded by one in which he visits a sex shop with Miles Teller, and the filmmakers have to titter at all the perverts who actually, you know, explore their sexuality in a comfortable way. How dare they! The perverts!
10. There Is No Reason for a Sequel
It would be very easy to see this as being the first in a series of comedies -- the next "Hangover" or even "American Pie" franchise. But this feels very much like a one-and-done scenario. I've certainly had enough of the bro shenanigans for a while. Let's see if America feels the same way.
"That Awkward Moment" hits theaters Friday, January 31.