The easy camaraderie among the trio of male leads lessens the clumsiness of That Awkward Moment.
The title refers to the point at which a casual hook-up may become a more serious romance. The story (** 1/2 out of four; rated R; opens Friday nationwide) is meant to venture beyond the limitations of the predictable rom-com, told as it is from a slightly raunchier twentysomething male perspective. However, it still adheres to most of the conventions of the genre. While it has the requisite amounts of comedy and romance, it's actually more of a buddy movie. Think Sex in the City, bro-style.
From a more cynical perspective, it's a Valentine's Day date movie that guys won't mind seeing, and women will find amusing enough and easy on the eyes.
Likable lead actors Zac Efron, Michael B. Jordan and Miles Teller have an appealing chemistry, though the material they're given lacks cleverness.
The alpha dog in this lovable wolf pack is Jason (Efron), who opens the film wincing as he describes the awkwardness of the moment when a woman opens a line of conversation with "So…", as in "So where is this relationship going?"
His buddy Daniel (Teller) agrees in theory, if not in practice. He doesn't score nearly as often with the ladies, or as successfully. In fact, he tends to use the assistance of his female buddy Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis) to pick up girls in bars. Not surprisingly, it's not the most effective of tactics.
Rounding out the trio is Mikey (Jordan), their more grounded pal. He's a successful doctor whose marriage to successful lawyer Vera (Jessica Lucas) is more than on the rocks. It's hit a boulder.
Some of the jokes fall flat, such as a recurring gag about Daniel's bathroom habit and a costume party mix-up (lifted from Bridget Jones' Diary and Legally Blonde). The formulaic concept at the core of the film — they all agree to lead unencumbered lives and enjoy a friendship like they had back in college — feels like the sort of rom-com contrivance rife for spoofing (a la How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days or Failure to Launch).
One by one, they upend their vow. Even though Jason is a guy with a girl in every fashionable New York City neighborhood, he's smitten by manic pixie dream girl Ellie (Imogen Poots). Daniel may seem a goofy non-starter, but his friendship with Chelsea is veering into romantic territory. Michael's arc with his estranged wife is a jot less predictable.
Jordan plays the most admirable character. Teller, with his puppy dog affability, has a natural gift for humor that rises above the limitations of the script. He deftly conveys his character's lovable vulnerability, making him the one we root for most to find happiness. Efron has an easy way of making his jerky charmer more engaging than he should be.
The balance between ribald comedy and sweet romance is not perfectly calibrated -- the film leans too heavily on bathroom humor -- but the guys seem to be having fun together.
That Awkward Moment is featherweight fare made worth watching because of the charm of the talented leads.