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In the end credits of That Awkward Moment, we’re treated to a blooper reel. The footage is typically goofy stuff — stars flubbing lines, knocking over props, cracking dirty jokes, and generally getting silly — but it’s a pleasure to watch because the actors are so damn fun. Zac Efron, Miles Teller, and Michael B. Jordan come across as warm and funny people, and the rapport between them is inviting. I can only imagine that the set must have been a blast.

The film itself, however, is not. Although the premise should, in theory, provide plenty of opportunities for sparks to fly and for the cast’s magnetic personalities to shine through, as they do in the blooper reel, writer/director Tom Gormican seems more interested in shoving the characters along predictable plotlines. The result is a tedious romantic comedy that can’t sell the romance, the comedy, or even the bromance.

The action begins when Mikey (Jordan), is abruptly dumped by his wife (Jessica Lucas). His impending divorce prompts his two best friends, 20something lotharios Jason (Efron) and Daniel (Teller), to pledge that they’ll all stay single together. However, the promise is threatened when Jason and Daniel are unexpectedly confronted with the possibility of real, lasting love.

Gormican’s script does the cast no favors. Instead of witty banter, we get first-draft script notes. “I did what I was supposed to do. I checked all the boxes,” moans the guy whose defining character trait is that he did what he was supposed to do and checked all the boxes. “I get people to believe in the surface,” explains the boy who can only form surface-level relationships with women. Instead of insightful confessions, we get banal chatter about how one character’s ex didn’t really enjoy parks. Instead of jokes, we get increasingly tiresome riffs on Daniel’s bathroom habits and Mikey’s self-tanner-painted penis.

Nevertheless, Teller manages to acquit himself quite well. He’s a perfect fit as smooth-talking Daniel, and his innate likability makes him easy to root for. It helps, too, that his arc is the best written of the three. In a faint echo of Teller’s better work in The Spectacular Now, Daniel’s realization that he’s falling for a friend (a winning, if underused, Mackenzie Davis) feels sweet and organic — at least up until the point that Gormican wrenches them apart because romantic comedy convention demands that he does so.

Too bad it’s Efron’s Jason that is the movie’s main focus. He gets the voiceovers that bookend the film, and the grand romantic gesture that brings it to a climax. It’d all work better if he weren’t also the biggest, smuggest asshole of the bunch. He treats his random hookups with less courtesy than you’d give a common stranger on the subway, and in one crucial scene finds himself unable to muster even the most minimal effort required to help a loved one. Making matters worse, Efron is the least convincing actor of the bunch — I could never forget that he was acting — and his chemistry with the lovely Imogen Poots is sadly lacking.

To be fair, Gormican looks like he’s trying here, and occasionally there are glimmers of the much better movie he was presumably hoping to make. He approaches 21st century dating with the authentic perspective of an insider; this is not, thankfully, one of those youth-oriented comedies that were clearly written by aging Boomers still struggling to understand text messaging. Scenes where Ellie meets the guys or Jason Facebook-stalks an ex ring true, even if they’re not especially original.

Indeed, the problem may be that Gormican is trying too hard. R-rated jokes don’t seem to come naturally to Gormican or his stars (at least in this context), and nor does big studio romance. The film is at its best when it relaxes and just lets us enjoy the sight of two characters gently falling in love, or silently sharing their woes over a pint of Ben & Jerry’s. It wants desperately to be a heartwarming raunchfest in the mold of The 40-Year-Old Virgin, but probably would’ve been better off aping the more naturalistic Drinking Buddies.

/Film rating: 3.0 out of 10

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