I wasn’t even going to watch this movie, let along review it. “When We First Met” is a romantic comedy, and I am someone who hates humanity, so I do not seem to be the appropriate person to review this film. And yet, we did just knock out two Netflix original distributions in so many weeks, and this does involve time travel, so I guess it sort of counts as a sci fi. Let’s go for a trifecta.
Noah (Adam DeVine) has been in the friend zone for the past three years, and now Avery (Alexandra Daddario), his objet d’amor, is getting married. Consoling himself with far too much booze for a man of his constitution, Noah climbs into a (presumably) magical photo booth, which transports him back to the night he met Avery. He now has the opportunity to live that night over and over, until he can finally end up with Avery, a task easier said than done.
“When We First Met” didn’t set out to be a great movie, but it did set out to be a movie, and it succeeds at that. Beyond that, there isn’t a lot to it. The direction, by Ari Sandel, whose greatest claim to fame to date has been high school something-or-other “The DUFF,” never really rises above an MTV level of competence.
That leaves us with the script, by John Whittington, who was one of the five people worked on “The LEGO Batman Movie” screenplay and one of six people who worked on “The LEGO Ninjago Movie.” It’s not that funny. There are a few sex jokes, and a few “fish out of temporal water” jokes, but the film never seems comfortable settling into any kind of comedic groove. It’s even worse when it attempts philosophizing on romantic topics. Your reading of the ending as either sweet or bittersweet depends on how you analyze the questions the film clumsily raises, and the script wisely leaves any genuine interpretation out of the hands of any of the characters on screen.
So that that leaves us with the acting, which is not that great either. At least Daddario (of “San Andreas” and, more importantly, the first season of “True Detective” and the hotel season of “American Horror Story”) and DeVine (of “Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates” and, to his credit, “The Final Girls”) look like they’re having fun. They chew the scenery sometimes in their depiction of always-just-out-of-sync lovers, but it’s something to grab onto.
There might not be anything truly wrong with “When We First Met,” but there’s nothing that really makes it stand out either. The concept is amusing, but it’s hardly new. Time has toyed with lovers in everything from “Love in the Time of Cholera” to “13 Going on 30.” And is it just me, or is that photo booth basically just the fortune telling machine from “Big”? Even its title sounds familiar; I keep getting it mixed up with Lord Huron’s weepy, indie folk ballad “The Night We Met.”
Nevertheless, it’s an interesting notion: Being a time traveler, like being in love, can wear you out. I just hope a more thoughtful film has thought of it too.