‘That Awkward Moment': Zac Efron and pals fail to charm critics

‘Awkward’ . . . indeed
Zac Efron, center, Michael B. Jordan, left, and Miles Teller, far left, in “That Awkward Moment.”
(Focus Features)

Film critics have spoken, and their message to the new bromantic comedy “That Awkward Moment” is, “It’s not us, it’s you.”

The majority of reviewers agree that although “Awkward Moment” has a likable cast, led by Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan, the movie leans too heavily on cliches while its raunchy gags fall flat.

The Times’ Betsy Sharkey says, “The issue is not with the premise per se” — the premise being that three 20-something New York buddies make a pact to stay out of serious relationships. Sharkey continues, “A great deal of fun, even R-rated fun, can be had at the expense of commitment phobia, or the way libidos can short-circuit the young adult male brain. But even cheesy romantic comedies need to raise the bar a bit these days to be relevant.”

What makes the film “particularly bedeviling,” Sharkey says, “is that you get the sense there is a nice guy behind [Efron’s character’s] mess, one not so callous about matters of the heart. If anything, the raunch seems forced. The closer the film gets to real emotions, the more authentic it feels.”


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The Wrap’s Alonso Duralde finds the film “exceedingly mild,” writing, “Efron tries to up the R-rated stakes in ‘That Awkward Moment,’ a supposedly raunchy comedy about dudes and babes and relationships, but despite his frequent near-nudity, he’s saddled with a particularly bland and butterscotch-hearted tale about guys who boast about being single and care-free but who, deep down, want to find the right girl.”

Duralde adds that the film “has a script like a basket of cliches, hauling out the hoariest insights about romance and relationships alongside gags so shopworn … you can’t believe they still exist outside of family-hour sitcoms.”

The Washington Post’s Ann Hornaday writes, “ ‘That Awkward Moment’ turns out to be unfortunately aptly named … for so clunkily stringing together callow, predictable scenes from rom-coms past." She adds, “Trying to fuse the raunch and ribaldry of Judd Apatow with the aspirational feel-goodism of the movies Matthew McConaughey no longer makes, first-time writer-director Tom Gormican succeeds only in delivering a long-form sit-com of verbal and behavioral cliches.”


The “chief frustration,” Hornaday says, “is that everyone in it is so much better than the material.” That includes actresses Mackenzie Davis, playing Teller’s wingwoman, and Imogen Poots, who plays Efron’s over-idealized love interest.

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The New York Times’ Stephen Holden calls the film “a vile, witless sex comedy set” and says of its leading man, “Mr. Efron’s blank, weightless performance indicates that he hasn’t graduated beyond the fluff of ‘High School Musical.’" Gormican, meanwhile, “desperately tries to outdo forerunners like the ‘Hangover’ movies in gross-out humor. But the longest-running joke, about residual bathroom stink, is poorly executed, and a sight gag stolen from ‘Boogie Nights’ and involving a sex toy is as limp as a dangling prosthesis.”

Not every critic has panned “That Awkward Moment,” though. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Mick LaSalle, for one, deems it “an entertaining movie that, despite some big flaws — especially near the finish — does the hard work of showing two relationships originating and growing. It’s an attempt to tell a modern story about how love is done in 2014, and though it ultimately leans too much on genre cliche, it reveals some of the tensions that today’s young adults experience in their romantic lives — the impersonality of hook-up culture in collision with the human desire and need for intimacy.”


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