Zac Efron in a scene from That Awkward Moment
Zac Efron in a scene from That Awkward Moment

The awkward thing about That Awkward Moment is how clever and revolutionary it thinks it is.

In its own mind, it's a shrewdly flip-flopped rom-com told from a guy's point of view, through which foul-mouthed banter and teary stares can yield a fresh, poignant, funny take on modern love.

In reality, it's a contrived, sometimes-amusing dude worship flick where the lovable goofball womanizer learns to grow up and open his heart to true romance.

Knocked Up should have put this particular brand of masculine mush out of style: it's not going to get any better than that movie, so just stop trying.

Instead, this tired narrative trope has continued to give us stories affirming how sex-crazed, borderline-sociopathic men can actually decide to start having feelings once they find the right girl.

Imogen Poots in a scene from That Awkward Moment
Imogen Poots in a scene from That Awkward Moment (AP Photo)

The oh-so-tragic hero in this yarn is Jason (Zac Efron), a walking smirk who keeps a "roster" of overlapping hook-up prospects, including his emergency one (Addison Timlin) who has to be the least excited "friend with benefits" of all time. His buddy Daniel (Miles Teller) has a wing-woman named Chelsea (Mackenzie Davis), who helps him pick up girls even though the two of them literally have, OMG, like, serious chemistry.

All logic goes out the window when the two boys agree to not get into any relationships, out of solidarity for their recently-separated pal Mikey (Michael B. Jordan), the world's youngest doctor since Doogie Houser. Mikey comes off as the good guy, mostly because he's played by the always-great Jordan and because his wife (Jessica Lucasa) is an awful cheating witch.

Screenwriter/director Tom Gormican creates this cookie-cutter cache of women, who in That Awkward Moment are either air-brained sex fiends or ridiculous romantic ideals. The one Jason wants to break the trio's stupid pact for is Ellie (Imogen Poots), who's pretty, funny, smart and mysterious and who loves sneaking into forbidden places and playing video games. What a complex character.

The only conflict that comes into Jason and Daniel's relationships with their two girls is this self-imposed barrier where they refuse to tell each other they've each found someone they love -- well until the predictable end. Too bad it wastes a lot of good things -- Teller's babbling humor, Efron and Jordan's charisma, some genuinely funny scenes (like one involving Viagra, and a post-credits cameo that comes out of nowhere) -- to get there.

Grade: C

Rated R for sexual content and language throughout.

Follow Pete McQuaid on Twitter @sweetestpete.