As Zac Efron tears up and professes his love to a pert blonde who gave it up on the first night, it's clear the story line of romantic comedy That Awkward Moment has gone too far.
This is not because Efron's leading lady isn't captivating or that a fella can't fall in love swiftly. But this revelatory moment required a compelling buildup - and an actor who could carry it out believably.
For his first film, writer-director Tom Gormican attempts a chick flick from a male point of view. But unlike successful films of this kind, such as High Fidelity, That Awkward Moment unfolds like a college thesis with a big budget.
Jason (Efron) is a Manhattan pretty boy who designs book covers. He believes in having a "roster" of women and picks them up at bars and takes them home that night. Though he occasionally calls for Round 2, he keeps women at a safe, commitment-free distance.
Miles Teller plays Jason's quirky best friend, coworker, and fellow lothario, Daniel. Though he's not as handsome as Jason, he has no problem hooking ladies with his wit and help from his wing-woman Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis).
The third link in the guys' crew is Mikey (Michael B. Jordan, Fruitvale Station), a doctor who married his college sweetheart Vera at 23. He's the voice of reason - level-headed, loyal, romantic. But when he finds out Vera (Jessica Lucas) is cheating on him, he can't understand where his perfect life plan went wrong.
Determined to lift their pal's spirits, Jason and Daniel take Mikey to a bar and encourage him to become their lady-killing cohort as they make a pact to stay relationship-free.
Unfortunately, they all end up breaking the pact: Jason falls for sassy publisher Ellie (Imogen Poots); Daniel realizes he wants to be more than friends with Chelsea; and Mikey begins sleeping with his wife again.
Though That Awkward Moment is predictable, it's not a complete disappointment for a lover of formulaic rom-coms. There are amusing moments of absurdity involving Viagra and urination. And sweet bits, such as Jason's surprise tour of Ellie's dream apartment.
Set against lofty talents such as Jordan and Teller (fresh off the top Sundance award for Whiplash), Efron comes off as little more than a pretty face. Luckily, his comedic timing is on target, though most of the jokes here are unnecessarily crass and forced.
Each emerging actress possesses a refreshing charm and on-screen easiness. But Davis' grace and lure, though she wasn't completely believable as a romantic match for Teller's Daniel, make her the one to watch.
That Awkward Moment ** (out of four)
Directed by Tom Gormican. With Zak Efron, Michael B. Jordan, and Miles Teller. Distributed by Focus Features.
Running time: 1 hour, 34 mins.
Parent's guide: R (sexual content and language)
Playing at: area theaters