Review: Instead of a cautionary tale, ‘Jexi’ may drive you deeper into cellphone addiction
Whether in a dark theater or on the couch at home, smartphones are an existential threat to the movie-watching experience. Their mere presence promises interruptions and temptations for the easily distracted (pretty much of all of us at this point). But “Jexi” is such a dumb, lazy film that it might have even the most ardent cinephile reaching for their device, ready to defend their defection to the dark side when faced with this clunker of a comedy.
Meanwhile, the movie’s obnoxious hero, Phil (Adam DeVine), would have no such qualms; he can’t tear his eyes and thumbs away from his phone, whether he’s walking on the street, showering or just generally avoiding human contact. When he breaks his smartphone, the replacement comes with invasive virtual assistant Jexi (voiced by Rose Byrne), who soon takes over his life. She threatens both his budding romance with bike shop owner Cate (Alexandra Shipp) and his job writing viral lists on the internet. His existence begins to spiral as she has him totally under her control.
Amid sporadic laughs, “Jexi” establishes its themes about the perils of cellphone dependence early. Even if you were buried in your screen, you’d pick up on its less-than-subtle preaching about the perils of this digital addiction.
Beyond that obvious message, “Jexi” shows little thought in the screenplay from co-directors Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who offer no consistency in the characterization of either Phil or Jexi. These are also the guys who wrote “The Hangover,” and this movie displays some of that film’s cruel streak with none of its crude charm. They’ve also directed the enjoyable “Bad Moms” and its disappointing sequel, but the work here is amateurish, as if they’ve never made, or even seen, a film before. Ben Kutchins’ cinematography distracts, filled with jerky zooms that make it feel like it was shot on an iPhone — and not by Steven Soderbergh.
With a protagonist who is overly attached to a female-voiced AI, “Jexi” invites easy comparisons to the far superior “Her.” But Lucas and Moore’s film is filled with bugs, making it easy to unplug from its attempts to entertain and do literally anything else.
Rated: R, for strong/crude sexual content and language throughout, some drug use and graphic nudity
Running time: 1 hour, 24 minutes
Playing: In general release
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