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Review

Status Update (2018)

The script of this movie sounds like it was written by someone who borrowed a copy of “Internet Slang for Dummies” from the library. That is to say, it has lots of Gen Z colloquialisms peppered in, often (but not always) used semi-correctly, but used in contexts and cadences that no human being ever would. “She kicked me in the eggplant emoji!” “I Google Chromed you!” “It happened faster than a three-second Snapchat!” The last one of those quotes is literally the first line of the movie, so it sets you up pretty quickly for what sort of teen-pandering experience the movie will be.

What Status Update feels like is a PG-13 Disney Channel Original Movie. (Heck, it stars Ross Lynch, the lead actor of the best Disney Channel Original Movie.) It’s a bit hornier and nastier than the typical DCOM, but anyone who has seen any of those films knows the formula: Some high-concept fantasy premise blending with real-life sitcom/light drama aspects, taking place in a upper-middle-class suburbia that ultimately aims to teach some lesson about being true to yourself (or swap in another platitude).

Lynch plays Kyle, a West Coast kid who moved across the country as part of his parents’ divorce. He finds himself as a social outcast who wants to make ins with Dani (Olivia Holt), the lead singer of the school’s rock band, which apparently operates as a class for some reason. He becomes buddies with the fat but kind loser Lonnie (Harvey Guillen), too.

Kyle’s fortunes change when he gets an app that grants wishes. Now, any type of wish-granting plot is going to encounter serious suspension-of-disbelief issues; it’s just not good storytelling to make your protagonist omnipotent. Especially since the story takes place in high school, it’s easy to imagine a teenage boy’s imagination running indulgent and raunchy. It’s certainly what most high school juniors would do. Plus, the film doesn’t give us any real limitations or Faustian tradeoffs to the wish-granting powers.

But I was simply not prepared for how stupid Kyle’s wishes are. His early wishes include: being able to sing opera, having his bully trip on a skateboard, and learning to figure skate. No money. No personal jet. No 14-inch penis or supermodel girlfriend. Making matters worse, the movie introduces the rule that the app can hear what is said via the phone speaker, and infer Kyle’s wishes. (Or maybe I just missed him typing; I can’t say the film inspired fastidious watching. Either way, it’s remarkably dumb.)

I suppose, to the movie’s credit, it intends much of the content around the wish-granting app to be a metaphor for the way we meticulously craft our personas on social media to manipulate the feelings of others. But the stupidity of the wish-granting ability is movie-breaking.

A solid quarter of the characters don’t make any sense. Motivations change on a line-by-line basis. There’s a character who is Dani’s gay friend, but who plays the structural role of the D-bag early boyfriend in these types of movies, swearing a vendetta against Kyle for no clear reason. There’s also popular girl who tries to woo Kyle from Dani and refuses to relent, with no explanation as to why she’s chasing him.

Status Update is unabashedly a comedy above all else, and I will admit that some of the jokes land. That counts for a lot. The funniest character, by far, is the chorus teacher played by John Michael Higgins. He gives an inspired monologue about his cat that caught me totally off-guard and had me cackling.

The musical moments aren’t atrocious, either: there’s a high energy cover of Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven” just for the hell of it.

But I can’t say it makes the movie anything worthwhile. Mostly I watched it because this is exactly the kind of trash that will keep me smiling for an hour and a half, even when it’s not good. And Status Update is not good.

Is It Good?

Not Good (2/8)

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