Do you remember Adam Devine —Not Levine, the singer of Maroon 5-, the clumsy-but-adorable boyfriend of Haley Dunphy en ‘Modern Family’? An actor with an unnoticed physique but great capacity for comedy, predestined for secondary and buffoonish roles, to play the next door neighbor without the right to touch, the friendly friend of the boy who drives the protagonist crazy. However, and without leaving the box where he remains classified, Devine stars in the latest romantic comedy from the writers of ‘The Hangover’ (2009), Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, which opens in Spain through Amazon Prime Video. Lucas and Moore co-write and co-direct ‘Jexi’, an easy critique of contemporary society’s obsession with mobile telephony, as if from the dark and somewhat stupid reverse side of ‘Her’ it will be.
In their most decaffeinated version, Lucas and Moore try to balance the humorous and insolent humor of the trilogy ‘Hangover …’ and the conventional romantic comedy, a swim and put away clothes that turns the film into another title on the grill of the platforms. Entertaining, yes, and with the odd hit of effect, especially thanks to supporting comedians like Michael Pena —‘Ant-Man’ (2015) and ‘From’ (2018)-, in the role of past boss of laps, and Wanda Sykes (‘Larry David’, ‘Black-ish’), as a cheeky salesgirl in a mobile phone store. Irreverence comes from the excess of swear words and jokes with sexual connotations, but not from the bottom, which is, on the contrary, reactionary.
Like that anecdote attributed to Billy Wilder, the backbone of ‘Jexi’ is a “boy meets girl” story. Girls, more like. Devine is Phil, a loser who has lost control of his life. He studied Journalism with the aim of writing useful articles for society, but has ended up trapped in a job in which all the evils of the profession converge: a click farm. No friends, no partner and no ambitions, his day to day goes from the office to his tiny apartment in San Francisco with no company other than the electronic devices through which he ‘connects’ with the outside world. When his cell phone breaks down, Phil acquires a new terminal with a virtual assistant called Jexi (to whom he puts the voice Rose Byrne), designed to make your life easier and better.
This premise is the one that Lucas and Moore take to the extreme in this satire on the dependence of contemporary society on new technologies, to the point of disabling users to make basic decisions for themselves and to develop relationships in the analog world, outside of social networks. “I see hipsters like you around here every day, crying because their cell phone has died and saying they need a new one. They’re like junkies. With crazy eyes and everything itches. Like: ‘I need a new cell phone, man. I suck for a new cell phone, “sums up one of the characters, in a sample of the kind of childish humor that ‘Jexi’ bets on.
And it is that its protagonist is unable to function at the most basic level without his ‘smartphone’, like many of the people around him, a starting point that allows the directors of ‘Jinx’ to fantasize about the possibility of a rebellion technological in the form of one of the most atavistic fears of the modern thirty-something: a jealous and hypercontrolling girlfriend. Precisely, ‘Jexi’ is included in the type of war comedy of the sexes, but in its more sister-in-law version, without an iota of the originality and risk of other works by Lucas and Scott, which already showed wear in the irritating ‘Bad mothers’, too riddled with archaic stereotypes and platitudes.
If in ‘Her’ Spike Jonze raised a toxic relationship in the key of drama between a lonely man and his virtual assistant, in ‘Jinx’ its directors take a similar relationship to comedy, caricaturing it at a junction with ‘Fatal Attraction’. Smartphone users have – we have – allowed a single device to have access to private conversations, to bank accounts, to the history that reveals tastes and interests. It is an intrusion into privacy never experienced until the appearance of these terminals, but a voluntary – or, failing that, unconscious – intrusion in pursuit of comfort. What if one of those artificial intelligence systems turned against its owner?
If the premise is not excessively original, less so is the development, always predictable. The writers have not been too head-racked, and despite the best efforts of Devine, who delivers a plethora of grimaces and the occasional Jerry Lewis contortion, the harvest of laughs is scarce. Jexi’s monotonous voice — and behavior — doesn’t help either, nor does the lack of definition of the female character that ends up being the protagonist’s true love objective (Alexandra Shipp), who passes through the film as a gray and leaden spirit: the lack of chemistry between them is almost unbearable. And without romance and without a half smile, the romantic comedy, where does it stay?
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when your mobile phone becomes your jealous lover