- - Thursday, January 30, 2014

Of all the elements in “That Awkward Moment” — the writing, the music, the direction, the acting, etc. — one stands out more than any other: Zac Efron’s hair. His gargantuan, improbably thick mane is a miracle of nature, a wonder of the world, a marvel of structural engineering. It’s a natural spectacle, a man-made, home-grown, must-see special effect all on its own.

Sadly, nothing else in this boorish, self-satisfied movie is nearly as impressive. Vulgar, predictable, and thoroughly adolescent in its view of the world, “That Awkward Moment” has all the charm of an afterschool special dressed up with four letter words.

The movie follows Jason (Mr. Efron), Daniel (Miles Teller), and Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), three handsome, happy, employed men as they meet and bed women in Lower Manhattan. Ladies (if not love) come easily to these young men — almost too easily. That relationships with beautiful women are in oversupply, and practically impossible to avoid even when trying, is a premise the movie takes for granted.

And it’s from that notion that the movie attempts to solve the fundamental problem that plagues all modern romantic comedies — the lack of barriers to romance — by roping its trio of young male protagonists into a self-prescribed challenge: to avoid relationships at all costs.

It’s not much of a challenge. The film begins with a scene in which a young woman breaks up with Jason, the punch line of which is that Jason claims to not have realized that they were dating. Given their swinging propensities, avoiding relationships looks to be about as easy for these young men as breathing and swearing.

Which they do, a lot. The movie is crude, but not clever, and what’s worse, it seems to think of itself as an exercise in high wit. “I’m not going to get old. Looks so tiring,” Jason says, in the sort of line meant to pass for smart dialogue. The endless, insipid banter, on the other hand, gets old fast.

Like its characters, “That Awkward Moment” is smug, overly pleased with itself, and indulgent in the extreme. It often seems less concerned with story and character than with conjuring up a slick, irritating lifestyle fantasyland for its cast of attractive young things. There are times when it looks less like a movie and more like a fashion catalog. The vibe is perfectly posed Urban Outfitters-shabby, heavy on exposed brick and ironic wall prints. Even beyond Mr. Efron’s hair, it’s a movie that doesn’t appear to have been directed so much as styled.

Mr. Efron, meanwhile, might as well be a piece of furniture for all he contributes. He’s empty and uninteresting, a leading lad who still seems too young to be working as a leading man. Mr. Jordan and Mr. Teller perform admirably as his sidekicks, landing virtually all of the movie’s few genuine laugh lines, but neither manages to fill the central void left by Mr. Efron’s dull presence. That’s part of why the hair stands out: There’s nothing else there.


TITLE: “That Awkward Moment”

CREDITS: Written and directed by Tom Gormican

RATING: R for language, sex, potty humor

RUNNING TIME: 94 minutes


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