Opening with the newly resurrected Orion Pictures logo, “Every Day” could initially seem like a body-swap comedy from the studio’s heyday in the ’80s. While its central premise — a soul that inhabits a new body daily — is the source for some laughs, the high-concept teen romance has bigger lessons to share about who we love and why. And yet despite its high-minded themes, and a few charming moments, the film is all soul and no brain. Which doesn’t mean the target audience won’t swoon.
Each morning, adolescent A wakes up in a different body, then changes into someone new at midnight on the dot. When we first meet A, that form has the slim limbs and strong shoulders of Justin (Justice Smith), a jerky football player who doesn’t appreciate his girlfriend, Rhiannon (Angourie Rice). A spends the day with her as Justin and is quickly smitten, then finds Rhiannon the next day and the next, each time in a different form of a nearby teen.
Whether A meets Rhiannon as a boy or a girl, there’s a connection that she can’t deny as she tries to understand A’s unique existence and what makes A who they are. The two struggle to be together and find each other every day, as their unconventional relationship deepens.
A’s ever-changing appearance allows a variety of actors to rotate in as Rhiannon’s love, notably Lucas Jade Zumann and Jacob Batalon, whom we want to spend more time with, just as Rhiannon does. Rice is the constant, blossoming and opening to each partner for a brief time, while she plays against a new face every few scenes. The vibrancy she brought to “The Nice Guys” and “The Beguiled” is even clearer in this larger role, and her sweetness is why teens — and the occasional adult — may find their mascara running at her plight.
Sadly, pick at its threads and “Every Day” unravels like a Forever 21 sweater. Does the change always happen at midnight local time? How will A die and what happens to the body if he does? What if he’s on a plane at midnight with no nearby teen bodies? Why am I spending more time thinking about these questions than anyone involved with the movie did? In its 338 pages, the source novel by David Levithan may have taken the time to explain these questions, but the 100-minute movie isn’t driven by logic.
Director Michael Sucsy (“The Vow”) loves a montage, blitzing through A and Rhiannon’s time together, then reminiscing on each previous body and the moments they shared. However, this overly eager hand in the cutting room means that key moments that are mentioned aren’t actually seen on screen.
“Every Day” doesn’t spend time developing any characters beyond the central couple, painting supposed supporting parts like Rhiannon’s sister Jolene (Debby Ryan) and her friend Rebecca (Amanda Arcuri) with an utter lack of detail. Some of A’s most intriguing bodies, such as a blind teen, are quickly introduced and then discarded without any exploration. “Every Day” seems poised to promote empathy for a diverse group of people, but it spends the most time with Rhiannon and A as a white heterosexual couple.
Adapted by Jesse Andrews, the movie speaks toward the truth that appearances — including one’s race and gender — shouldn’t matter in love and relationships. It’s a thought-provoking concept that makes “Every Day” more ambitious than your average teen romance, which only makes it all the more disappointing that it simply remains an average teen romance.
Rating: PG-13 for thematic content, language, teen drinking, and suggestive material
Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Playing: In general release