Film Review: “When We First Met”

“When We First Met” is about pitying yet another guy who has been relegated to the friend zone.

The new Netflix chick-flick, “When We First Met,” does not qualify as a rom-com because it barely contains the out-and-out romantic and comedic elements of one. The movie is dull, with a dearth of three-dimensional characters, funny writing, or even an endearing, focal affair.

After meeting the stunning Avery Martin (Alexandra Daddario) at a Halloween party, Noah Ashby (Adam DeVine) is hopelessly smitten and determined to align his destiny with hers. But when they spend the night together and end up at her home, he gets undeniably and unsurprisingly friend-zoned. Three years later, a smiley Avery is betrothed to another man, and a lovesick Noah is broken-hearted and inebriated at Avery’s engagement party. With impulsive behavior, he revisits the photo booth that the two had snapped pictures in three years ago. Magically and miraculously, the booth gifts him the chance to rewrite his fate with Avery by transporting him to that notorious Halloween over and over again until he achieves his sorely-sought love.

The film is a ripped-off hybrid of “Groundhog Day” and “About Time” that mashes the time-travel and romance genres, but it definitely does not match the caliber of those movies’ storytelling. It shows Noah trying different approaches to set his romantic kismet in motion, but his different actions create time ripples, altering variations of his life and character each time. From being accused as a stalker to becoming a douchebag to embodying an affluent businessman, every time-and-space jump pulls him closer to the girl of his dreams. Unfortunately, all the skewered timelines are uninspiring as the narrative overplays the same formulaic shtick of Noah redoing his prior actions. The plotline recycles itself, becoming predictable and unamusing to viewers. Cliches are also rehashed, like Noah being blindsided by Avery’s existence and ignoring the more compatible love interest, Avery’s friend, Carrie (Shelley Hennig), and the pedestrian lesson that love cannot be forced.

But even the platitude of unrequited love is overruled. After realizing that Carrie is his ideal woman, Noah immediately abandons his pursuit to bed Avery and magnetizes toward the next attainable and available female. The trope of a man-child being rewarded with the instantaneous and serendipitous love of a girl after rejection is a possessive and overdone concept. It’s also poor character development because Noah does not experience any lingering or biting heartache from his prolonged, one-sided infatuation. His character arc stifles, blocking the emergence of an intriguing story.

Some characters and writing also lack personality. However, Adam DeVine makes up the majority of the entertainment in an otherwise completely monotonous comedy by using his usual exuberance and zaniness. Shelley Hennig’s chic-yet-nerdy portrayal of Carrie is also charming, heightening the fraught dynamic between the endgame couple. Both actors definitely have mutual, on-screen synergy and comic banter; however, the screenplay makes the mistake of not handing more limelight to the simpatico pair.

“When We First Met” is a repetitive and unexciting romantic-comedy, filled with a corny, time-travelling gimmick that flags after the first act. There are exceptions in which certain characters have repartee, but their pleasant performances aren’t nearly enough to save the half-baked narrative. Alas, the film is forgettable and mediocre with no zestful quality to warrant watching.

Grade: D
Director: Ari Sandel
Starring: Adam DeVine, Alexandra Daddario, Shelley Hennig, Andrew Bachelor
Release Date: Feb. 9, 2018
Rated: PG-13

Image Courtesy of Netflix