“That Awkward Moment” is on track to box office success as counter-programming to this weekend’s Super Bowl XLVIII — but that doesn’t mean it’s actually any good.
First time writer-director Tom Gormican’s indie comedy, which Focus Features acquired and is giving a major theatrical release, has been declared “rotten” on critic aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. So far, only 23 percent of the 79 reviews counted give the broromantic comedy any significant praise.
Zac Efron (“High School Musical”) stars and produced the flick co-starring Michael B. Jordan (“Fruitvale Station”) and Miles Teller (“The Spectacular Now”) as best buds looking for love in New York City, and experiencing lots of, you know, “awkward” moments along the way.
The title alone sets some pretty high expectations for R-rated shenanigans, and according to TheWrap‘s Alonso Duralde, audiences shouldn’t expect an ounce of originality.
“No matter how much scruff Efron grows, how much scotch he swills or how many F-bombs he drops, he’s still got a face like a basket of kittens,” Duralde wrote in his review. “And ‘That Awkward Moment’ has a script like a basket of clichés, hauling out the hoariest insights about romance and relationships alongside gags so shopworn (I thought you said it was a costume party!) you can’t believe they still exist outside of family-hour sitcoms.”
“This lady-killer, meant to be fetchingly blase on the surface and a fine fellow underneath, comes off like such a pluperfect egotist, you find yourself rooting for everyone but him,” Phillips wrote. “The casting exacerbates matters. The film stars Efron and co-stars several other youngish performers more interesting and wittier than Efron.”
Rolling Stone‘s Peter Travers was short and not-so-sweet in his 190-word, 1.5 star review.
“Take three horny guys, all twentysomethings, mix with a plot that was old last century, and serve to an audience so desperate for dick jokes and toilet gags they might forgive a movie wired only with clichés,” Travers wrote. “Kudos to Teller for generating whatever laughs manage to poke their heads above this sea of misogyny and missed opportunities.”
Los Angeles Times critic Betsy Sharkey also took issue with the comedic aspect of the romance-themed film from the perspective of guys.
“What ‘Awkward’ is theoretically about are the ways that moment gets dicey when guys figure out they actually care about the females in question,” Sharkey wrote. “But what ‘Awkward’ is actually about, albeit unintentionally, is how passing off misogyny for comedy has gotten so terribly passé, as insulting to the guys as to the young women. Including the actors.”
Still, 18 other critics, including a number of women, didn’t mind the misogynistic tone of the film. And even found it funny.
L.A. Weekly critic Amy Nicholson described “Awkward Moment” as “a surprisingly good dude-bro version of ‘Sex and the City,'” thanks in part to the excellent chemistry between Efron, Teller and Jordan.
“While it’s easy to tease first-time writer-director Tom Gormican’s raunchy rom-com, the trio has a shaggy chemistry, and most of the jokes hit,” Nicholson wrote. “So many, in fact, that when the lads vow that they’ll never, ever, have girlfriends again, we don’t actually think they’re serious until the rushed final act, when we realize that was supposed to be a plot point.”
Claudia Puig of USA Today also made the “Sex and the City” comparison and enjoyed the “charming trio” carrying the film. Perhaps most importantly — for Focus’ profit potential, at least — she thinks it’s the perfect date movie for a certain romantic holiday just two weeks away.
“From a more cynical perspective, it’s a Valentine’s Day date movie that guys won’t mind seeing,” Puig wrote. “And women will find amusing enough and easy on the eyes.”