That Awkward Moment is a wretched, terrible film starring very attractive, and in some cases seriously talented, actors, all slumming it while they await what will surely be brighter futures. For three of the four leads, anyway, it’s nice to get rock bottom out of the way before they begin their ascent. And then there’s Zac Efron, who is clinging to rock bottom as he falls through the sediment and shale on his way into rock bottom’s gullet, where he’ll eventually dissolve in the gastric juices of irrelevance.
But Efron is not the most serious issue with That Awkward Moment. The most serious problem is writer/director Tom Gormican, whose only other credit was as a producer on Movie 43 and the composer of a 2011 tweet expressing excitement at the prospect of attending Burning Man. That tweet had more life, more wit, and more originality than all of That Awkward Moment, and wasted far less talent.
Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and Miles Teller star in That Awkward Moment as a pair of contemporary bros — hair gel, expensive jeans, and erections on the outside, and soft-gooey emotional centers on the inside. After Michael B. Jordan’s character, Mikey — who is old enough to have finished medical school and have his first divorce — finds out that said wife was sleeping with her lawyer, the three make a bet with absolutely no stakes: They agree to remain single together. The bet is immediately complicated by the fact that Mikey is trying to reconcile with his wife, Daniel (Miles Teller) is falling in love with his female wingman, and Jason (Efron) is falling hard for Ellie, an author he initially mistakes for a hooker (Imogen Poots).
Despite the absence of stakes involved in the bet, while pursuing their relationships, each of the three keeps that fact hidden from one another, which results in a few hackneyed contrivances that threaten their relationships, culminating in Jason’s boneheaded decision to skip the funeral of his girlfriend’s father, so as not to appear that he’s in a relationship.
The plot meanders from one lousy artifice to another, very little of consequence happens, and then each of the bros have their rom-com ending, complete with obvious callbacks established within 10 minutes of the film’s opening. Oh, and if you don’t hate the idea of this movie enough, I should also mention that Efron and Miles’ characters design chick-lit book jackets for a living, and the best joke in the film is when Jordan’s character drunkenly masturbates with self-tanner.
It’s difficult to stress just how terrible That Awkward Moment is — flaccid, uninteresting, and painfully unfunny — and yet despite that, it’s hard to deny that the charm of Jordan and, especially, Teller still manages to seep through. Teller is given nothing to work with, and yet somehow he manages to be the likable funny guy, wooing with the looks of a pastier young John Cusack and the patter of a Swingers-era Vince Vaughn. Jordan does the best he can as the mopey emotional center, whose major statement in the film is that scotch and ice cream make terrific companions after you’ve been dumped. Efron, meanwhile, delivers his lines with complete woodenness, as though trying to will the words alive with dead-eye stares.
As formulaic rom-com endings go, That Akward Moment also features one of the worst romantic gesture scenes I’ve ever seen, an unintentionally awkward moment that even the most impassioned Efron fans would furl their eyebrows at, a kind of shrug of indifference before the credits roll. It’s a staggeringly incompetent film with all the wit of lobotomized navel fuzz, the complexity of brain-damaged amoeba, and the originality of an overused ’90s catchphrase.