Jexi Oct 11, 2019 23:00:24 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Oct 11, 2019 23:00:24 GMT -5
Directed by: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Directed by: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Phil's (Adam DeVine) life becomes controlled by a smartphone in Jexi.
There is a lively satire to be made about the way smartphones control us as humans, but it's certainly not going to be made by the same dudes who brought us 21 & Over. Jexi is an abysmal comedy with a categorically embarrassing performance from Adam DeVine. At 79 minutes sans credits, it feels gutted by hasty edits and sloppy pacing, but blessed so, because my phone was about to become my only source of entertainment in an empty theater on a Friday night. Contrary to popular belief, there are events more miserable than a solo Netflix-and-chill evening.
Jexi is reportedly the last film to be theatrically released by CBS Films before they're absorbed into CBS Entertainment Group, which will shift focus to making films available on the company's over-the-top streaming service. What a perfect analogy, truly, because this film plays like your last day at a menial job you can't wait to leave in terms of effort and tact.
DeVine stars as Phil, a would-be journalist but instead one of dozens of staff writers compiling viral-lists for a Buzzfeed-knockoff site, run by Kai (Michael Peña in a thankless role). From a child, Phil's closest companions have been cell-phones; from his mother's Nokia to his father's Sidekick, he's been raised by technology. In the present, his life is defined by takeout and Amazon orders, all summoned at the drop of his hat by his smartphone, which keeps him from hanging out with his coworkers (Charlyne Yi and Ron Funches). How much he can do on a device made for connecting with others when he, himself, has no friends, I cannot explain.
One day, Phil's absorption with his phone causes him to plow into Cate (Alexandra Shipp) and knock her clean off her bike. Despite clearly being more concerned with his phone, Cate, the owner of a local bike-shop, takes a liking to Phil. He goes about his day, eventually picking up a brand new phone with a state-of-the-art operating system known as "Jexi." Yet once he accepts Jexi's terms and conditions without reading them, and grants her access to all his passwords, his life essentially becomes controlled by this AI (voiced by Rose Byrne). "I am programmed to make your life better," she repeatedly tells him, but Jexi's approach is hostile. From ordering him kale salads against his demands to sending nude photographs of himself to his coworkers, Jexi makes Phil's life hell, and even complicates things when he tries to pursue Cate, who tries to get him out in the world and leave his phone at home.
The immediate point of comparison is ostensibly Spike Jonze's tender film Her, but mentioning it in the same context as Jexi is an affront to such a memorable picture. This is bottom-barrel comedy, where characters are broadly drawn and impossibly unrealistic, nary a likable one to be found, and the sole source of humor is Wanda Sykes as a demeaning employee at a cell-phone store.
Making Jexi more insufferable is the post-production lobotomy it undoubtedly underwent, which is evident as the film is a hodgepodge of poorly cobbled sequences that either end too early, curiously zoom-in or zoom-out at unnecessary points mid-scene, or suggest more meat was on the bones of this frail concept at one point. It's hard to believe this was conceived with such a short length in mind, but if the minimal marketing campaign suggests anything (the trailer premiered in theaters prior to Good Boys back in August, and I recall not being able to find much information at all about the film even after seeing that one), this film was rather low priority for CBS. It certainly looks the part in that regard.
Jexi could've possibly worked as a Saturday Night Live skit, but stretching this feeble, frankly mean-spirited premise out to feature-length was a recipe for disaster. Compound it with the fact that the writing/directing team of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore negate any opportunity for Jexi to make any remote commentary on how our lives are essentially monopolized by "tiny black boxes" that fit into the palms of our hands and you have an utterly pointless, almost laughless affair.
Starring: Adam DeVine, Alexandria Shipp, Michael Peña, Charlyne Yi, Ron Funches, Wanda Sykes, and Kid Cudi. Voiced by: Rose Byrne. Directed by: Jon Lucas and Scott Moore.