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‘That Awkward Moment’: Dude, where’s the comedy?

Miles Teller (from left) Michael B. Jordan Zac Efrplay guys avoiding commitment “ThAwkward Moment.”  |   FOCUS FEATURES

Miles Teller (from left), Michael B. Jordan and Zac Efron play guys avoiding commitment in “That Awkward Moment.” | FOCUS FEATURES

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MOMENT’ ★1⁄2

Jason Zac Efron

Mikey Michael B. Jordan

Daniel Miles Teller

Ellie Imogen Poots

Chelsea Mackenzie Davis

Focus Features presents a film written and directed by Tom Gormican. Running time: 94 minutes. Rated R (for sexual content and language throughout). Opens Friday at local theaters.

Updated: January 30, 2014 1:42PM

Awkward? More like painful.

If you are planning on seeing “That Awkward Moment” and you’d rather I not cite specific examples in my opening arguments against you making that choice, please skip the next few paragraphs — or perhaps you can return to this review after the fact.

Now then.

One running joke in “That Awkward Moment” involves a character who always defecates in his friend’s bathroom, and always denies doing so before admitting he’s done it again.

Another running joke involves a socially awkward boss who always announces his arrival on the scene by saying, “Hi, it’s Fred,” as if he’s on the telephone.

These gags are not funny the first time. Repetition doesn’t help.

No doubt we’ll experience worse movies than this in 2014. But the bar has been lowered.

“That Awkward Moment” strives to straddle the line between breezy, bromantic comedy and “Hangover”-esque guy humor. It fails miserably on both counts. This is Filler Lite — a not particularly offensive but utterly unmemorable film starring a number of talented, charismatic actors who apparently signed on for this film between more interesting projects.

Zac Efron plays Jason, a confirmed bachelor who keeps a “roster” of regular sex partners but is committed to never making a commitment. (Like just about every other relationship concept in this film, the “roster” thing is explained, and then explained again, for those in the audience who nodded off the first time.)

Jason sails through Manhattan in stylish clothes, flashing his killer grin and spouting his dubious, naive views about relationships. Even when Jason claims to be cold or sad or confused, he looks like he’s on a modeling shoot. Not once does he come across as an actual guy living an actual life.

Jason still hangs out with his two best friends from college: Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), a doctor who keeps saying he “checked all the boxes,” i.e., he excelled in school, got a great job and married the right girl, and Daniel (Miles Teller), a constant cutup always on the prowl for his next one-night stand.

After Mikey is separated from his wife and Jason gets dumped by a woman he didn’t even know he was dating, the three bachelors make a vow: they’re going to tear up the town and bed down as many women as possible without getting seriously involved with any of them.

And they say today’s young professionals don’t have a vision for the future.

(Later the vow is referred to as “The Bet.” I still don’t know what the stakes were.)

In addition to a vow/wager that has no stated expiration date and has no real purpose other than to fuel the rest of the movie, writer-director Tom Gormicon serves up a number of other eye-rolling moments, including one scene that rings so horribly false, I kept thinking it had to be a dream sequence, it HAD to be a dream sequence.

It wasn’t.

Not to give too much away (not that you should see this movie anyway), but the scene in question is triggered by Jason misinterpreting an invitation that was as clear as day. But even though Jason makes a huge, insanely stupid mistake based on that misunderstanding, once he realizes his error, all he has to do is turn around and leave — but instead he proceeds, which makes him seem like an idiot and also erodes our empathy for him. (And yet we’ll like Jason even LESS based on his actions later in the movie.)

The most intriguing and attractive character in “That Awkward Moment” is Mackenzie Davis’ Chelsea, who (for reasons never explained) serves as Daniel’s platonic wingman, but harbors romantic feelings for the goof. Teller and Davis have true chemistry. Too bad this wasn’t their movie.

British actress Imogen Poots adds some spark as Ellie, a quirky, smart girl who catches Jason’s eye. But she’s stuck with an inconsistent character. (It must have been a real challenge for Poots to race through Ellie’s explanation for why there was an envelope of cash, sex books and boxes of condoms in her apartment the night Jason met her. Don’t ask.)

No matter which character is speaking, we can almost see the dialogue balloons above their heads, as they recite lines that rarely sound spontaneous or authentic. Almost nothing in this film feels genuine.

The end-credits blooper reel for “That Awkward Moment” includes the obligatory line flubs, cast members cracking up and alternate punch lines.

Looks like the cutting-room floor wasn’t any funnier than the final product.


Twitter: @richardroeper

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