Jexi (**) is an uneven attempt at being inoffensive

Jexi – 2019

Written and Directed by Jon Lucas and Scott Moore
Starring Adam Devine, Alexandra Shipp, Rose Byrne, Wanda Sykes, Michael Peña

Experienced comedy writers Lucas and Moore have made 4 films as directors, including a pair of Bad Moms films. They wrote all of the Hangover films, but those were directed by the excellent Todd Phillips. How is it with all of that experience that it feels like Jexi is so uneven and filled with so many rookie vibes?

There are at least half a dozen laugh inducing moment in this film. That’s more than one can expect in a #metoo era comedy. Devine and Shipp are an adorable prospective couple. Byrne is delicious as a perfect dynamic intelligence with a few hundred thousand diagnostic issues. Still, the film feels less like a story and more like the result of a screening room exercise where people are measuring each scene for reactions, rather than cohesive integral storytelling.

The story starts out like a modern Idiocracy. The first five minutes is a dissertation on how we have all started living through our phones. In this backdrop we’re introduced to Phil (Devine), who went to college to be a journalist, but now writes internet “lists” for a Buzzfeed site run by the worst acting version of Peña ever witnessed. I had no idea Michael Peña could be unfunny.

He loses his phone in a meet cute with Shipp. He then finds a new phone that immediately starts acting like Siri / Alexa / Cortana on a bender. The app gradually improves his life until he feels less of a need for it. Then the phone gets jealous.

There is a disconnected feel to the entire movie. At times it’s like the creators are making two different movies that occasionally cross paths. This feeling is owed to the kind of butchery we see when movies are screen tested beyond recognition.

So many times we get the sense the film is going somewhere. Then it’s interrupted, shifts course and slowly heads in another direction. As soon as it gains steam, it grinds to a halt once more.

Todd Phillips recently commented that the reason he got out of comedy is the restrictions by woke culture make funny almost impossible without being offensive to someone. There is nothing offensive here. It might have been somewhere in the script, but was almost certainly weeded out by a culture that overrides directors without the ability to give it the double middle finger. Moore and Lucas are not credentialed enough to make the film they want to make. Instead we get the film the studio determined would not irritate any viewers.

This means, ultimately, the double middle finger is for those looking for a consistent, funny film.

This is too bad. They almost had something here. Good thing no one can be offended, though.

(** out of *****)

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