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The diverting rom-com 'When We First Met' zigs when you expect a zag

The diverting rom-com 'When We First Met' zigs when you expect a zag
Adam Devine in the movie "When We First Met." (Jami Saunders / Netflix)

The high-concept romantic comedy "When We First Met," directed by Ari Sandel and written by John Whittington, gets off to a precarious start with a time-traveling protagonist trying to land his dream girl. The premise seems ripped from Richard Curtis' "About Time" — it's a millennial "Groundhog Day" meets "The Butterfly Effect."

Noah (Adam Devine) has an unrequited crush on Avery (Alexandra Daddario), even though she's engaged to the hunky Ethan (Robbie Amell), whom she met the day after she friend-zoned Noah.

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In a post-engagement party stupor, Noah discovers that the old photo booth at the jazz club will transport him back to that first night, and he starts obsessively sending himself back, choosing who to be each time — jerk, career man, stalker — trying to make himself into someone Avery will love. The consequences are a lot more complicated than the choice itself.

The potentially problematic premise of "When We First Met" is narrowly sidestepped because the film zigs when you expect it to zag, thwarting Noah's efforts at every turn. Devine, the energetic, rubber-faced love-child of Jerry Lewis and Jack Black, brings his zany energy to this otherwise tepid affair.

The film plays with the logical fallacy that if you just do something different, you can have the thing that you want. But smartly, it's not about Noah getting the dream girl, but realizing that it's OK to be friends, and that idealizing one person based on a set of assumed characteristics is never the path to true love. This watered-down rom-com doesn't fully deliver but it's a diverting twist on the genre nonetheless.

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‘When We First Met’

Not rated

Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

Playing: Streaming on Netflix

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