'That Awkward Moment' is smart, sweet and shallow

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Boy, are these guys glib.

When a newly separated man plans to drown his sorrows in ice cream, a friend asks, "What are you, Bridget Jones?"

When a single guy says, "I'm just building my roster," he isn't talking about fantasy football but a series of women available for happy hookups. "That Awkward Moment" has references to "Beverly Hills Cop" and "Jerry Maguire" and stages a memorable, out of the ordinary walk of shame at a fancy holiday celebration.

'That Awkward Moment'

Starring: Zac Efron, Miles Teller, Michael B. Jordan, Imogen Poots.

Rating: R for sexual content and language throughout.

The movie stars Zac Efron, Miles Teller and Michael B. Jordan as college friends and New Yorkers -- the first two illustrate and design book covers, the third is a physician -- who take a vow to steer clear of commitments and relationships. Mr. Efron's Jason and Mr. Teller's Daniel are content to drink and date and have fun while Mikey (Mr. Jordan) is crestfallen when his wife reveals she's been cheating on him and wants a divorce.

In this romcom with a male point of view, and the now-obligatory outrageous moment designed to make audiences guffaw or gasp, the men end up in actual relationships, which they must hide from their buddies. That doubles the recipe for the potential for romcom rows between the women and men, and then among the men.

"That Awkward Moment," written and directed by relative newcomer Tom Gormican, tries to have moviegoers at hello with its hip handsome cast. In another year, Mr. Jordan might be an Oscar nominee for "Fruitvale Station" while Mr. Teller continues to prove he can handle sorrow or silliness or farm-boy footloose dancing and Mr. Efron works his dreaminess and perfectly styled hair to try to make his character's lapses in judgment more palatable.

In fact, it's those failings -- wildly misinterpreting an invitation and, especially, not supporting a sweet woman (Imogen Poots) when she needs him the most -- that loosen the movie's grip on the audience. It also starts and abruptly stops a key conversation between the doc and his wife (Jessica Lucas), and telegraphs an inevitable confrontation between Daniel and a female friend (Mackenzie Davis).

To its credit, it gives the men relatively interesting jobs that nevertheless don't interfere with nightly rounds of drinks at their favorite bar and it makes effective use of New York neighborhoods, including Gramercy Park.

Tucked among the laughs, an inordinate number of which involve the bathroom, are observations about the aspirational aspects of living in the city and whether this gang belongs to the "selfish generation" or wants to shun the traditional paths to suburban marriage. It has some smart and sweet moments but it never explores anything with depth.

The title refers to the notion that, as one guy says, "When it comes to girls, nothing good ever follows the 'So ...' " as in, "So, where is this going?"

It's going to be a film aimed squarely at moviegoers who, like former Disney star Mr. Efron, graduated from "High School Musical" and into young adulthood and R-rated comedies.

First Published January 30, 2014 9:14 PM

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