Starring: Adam Devine, Alexandra Daddario, Shelley Hennig
Director: Ari Sandel
Running Time: 97 mins
When We First Met is an American film about a man who discovers he can travel back to the night he first met the girl of his dreams three years ago, and do over the evening so that he gets to be with her instead of being lumped in the friendzone for eternity.
It’s the old Groundhog Day ripoff, something that seems to have been getting increasingly common recently. When We First Met, although a predictable, repetitive and less-than-hilarious film, does at times impress with a heartfelt and very pleasant story, the likes of which will really surprise you with just how genuine it feels in comparison to the incredibly formulaic and fairly simplistic overall plot.
Let’s start with the main part of the movie, the Groundhog Day story. It’s a premise we’ve seen done numerous times now, and still none quite live up to the original. Overall, I have mixed feelings about how When We First Met goes about using the premise, as although it does make for an incredibly predictable and often frustratingly repetitive watch, there are times when clear efforts are made to distinguish itself.
First off, what frustrated me about the story was that, for about three-quarters of the duration, it felt as if there wasn’t any other motive than just getting the girl through any means possible. That’s fairly enjoyable for about twenty minutes, but the fact that it feels like that’s all that’s in our main character’s mind during every decision makes the film feel very shallow, and undoubtedly repetitive.
Groundhog Day, on the other hand, felt more like a fable than anything else, and although there was the intention to get the girl by going back and being more perfect for her, it didn’t occupy the entire mind of the film, with Bill Murray’s attempts to either kill himself or help others also taking up a large part at the heart of the film. This movie, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of that depth or range, and that’s why it feels so repetitive and dull throughout.
I did like the fact that the premise isn’t entirely the same as Groundhog Day, in that we don’t see our main character simply living the exact same timeframe again and again, but rather witness him jump three years ahead to live with the consequences of what happened that one night.
That, for me, worked really well, as you get a few seconds of excitement and anticipation as you wait to see what kind of a future his actions have created, usually making for a good laugh when it’s revealed, so I was really glad to see that the film wasn’t quite ripping off the premise, but moulding it slightly differently to render some good fun at times.
In general, though, When We First Met isn’t the funniest film you’ll ever see. It’s in the third tier of Hollywood comedies, as although it’s not quite terrible and painfully unfunny, the good jokes are spread fairly few and far between, while the performances are generally not quite fresh and enjoyable enough to make for a great level of comedic energy.
Adam Devine is fine in the lead role, as a chuckling and bumbling man who gets into all sorts of mishaps, although he’s not as endlessly hilarious as he might like to be. Alexandra Daddario and Robbie Amell are fairly absent throughout the movie, despite their large role, as they don’t offer much in the way of good comedy, tension or otherwise. The only performance that I really did like here came from Shelley Hennig, as the friend of the girl our main character is going for.
Although she doesn’t have the greatest screenplay to work with, Hennig is easily the highlight of every scene she’s in, with a performance that doesn’t feel as try-hard or manic as her co-stars, having that genuine and very likable appeal that makes her by far the film’s most down-to-earth and enjoyable presence throughout, which was great to see.
Finally, we need to look at why this film ultimately proves a lot more pleasant than you may think. While repetitive and predictable throughout, I have to say that the film’s final act (about 20 minutes or so), really managed to get to me. It’s not a stunningly moving or unexpected finale, but it’s an ending with a really nice and genuine message, the likes of which will really make you smile and warm your heart, concluding the movie on a high as a whole, and that’s why I’m giving When We First Met a 7.1 overall.