Movie Mayhem – Jexi

Jexi — 2019; directed by Jon Lucas & Scott Moore; Starring Adam Devine, Alexandra Shipp, Rose Byrne, Michael Peña, Ron Funches, Charlyne Yi and Justin Hartley

I wasn’t all that excited to see Jexi. With Adam Devine and a overlay of raunchy humor in the driver’s seat, for all I was concerned, the film could have been relegated to direct-to-DVD or on demand status. Or better yet, buried on some obscure streaming service to be seen by insomniacs browsing their feeds while high. But, CBS Films and Entertainment One decided to release it in theaters, and as I always say, you never know when a movie will surprise you. So I went to check it out. And boy, did Jexi surprise me.

Except for his stint on Modern Family, I don’t much care for Devine’s taste in humor, which tends to be more toward the style of Seth Rogen than that of Bill Murray. That is to say, at some point, there will be at least one joke involving dicks, at least one pot smoking scene, and nothing will be subtle or subversive. This leads to a lot of lazy jokes and lazier performances that don’t even attempt to be clever.

Devine, however, can be quite funny when he’s surrounded by the right people. In Jexi, Devine is paired with a group of actors who elevate not only his performance, but the movie as a whole to a much higher level than you’d expect about a movie where a phone app falls in love with its human owner.

The supporting cast is spread across the entire spectrum of brilliant to ludicrous. One the one hand, you have Alexandra Shipp as Cate, a sexy, intelligent, athletic bike store owner who maintains an unexpected chemistry with Devine, and Justin Hartley killing it as her pompous, arrogant, but extremely likeable ex-boyfriend. On the other, you have Wanda Sykes as an Apple-esque store clerk going through the motions of her usual wise-ass shtick that doesn’t do anything for anyone.

And then there’s Michael Peña as Phil’s over-the-top racist, bigoted, sexist boss, who at some times is hilarious in the absurdity of what comes out of his mouth, and at others is so overbearing and obnoxious, it becomes too cringe-worthy for its own good.

Sitting right in the middle of it all is Devine, who reacts to each of these characters in a sweet, innocent way that remains honest and relatable throughout the film. Phil would rather spend more time with his electronic devices than real people. Seemingly, that’s how he likes it and doesn’t necessarily want a change. That is until his phone gets smashed to bits after meeting Cate.

His new phone comes with an AI like no other. Her name is Jexi (voice of Rose Byrne) and she is there to make Phil’s life better. She also has a seriously foul and unfiltered mouth, which is where most of the comedy is directed. Though a lot of what Jexi says and is able to get away with in the film is funny on its own, it’s Devine’s reactions that raise them above simple shock value.

It’s never quite clear if Jexi got her personality from Phil or if her code was just written that way, as we never learn if there are more of her out there, messing with other people’s lives at the same time. Jexi, the operating system, doesn’t seem to be a mainstream thing, and isolating it to Phil, even though he gets multiple devices throughout the film with her on them, is odd and a little questionable. But because of the warm and delightful relationship between Phil and Cate that drives the story, and the fact that the scenes between Devine and Jexi are pure entertainment, this initial oddity is easier to overlook.

The raunchy behavior that infects the film, and which I am not personally a fan of, is also tolerated because of Shipp, who adds such a sweetness to the movie, it could rot your teeth. It helps the film be much more American Pie than Pineapple Express, as the duos relationship adds a welcome, loving core to everything that ultimately makes the film work.

It’s certainly not the direction of Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who don’t quite know where to go sometimes. There are moments of pure levity, as when Phil starts to actually look at the world around him, and then complete chaos at others, such as when the camera zooms in and out as if we were back on the set of Modern Family. The balance is so distinctly off, it’s quite noticeable, especially when it appears that Devine looks directly at the camera as if he’s breaking the fourth wall, but isn’t clear as to whether it’s meant to be that way or because it’s a mistake.

Then there’s the odd sequence at the beginning of the film, which I assume is there to show how addicted Phil is to the phone. We see his parents hand him the phone whenever he’s bored or when they’re fighting, but it only shows them doing this twice and the idea behind it is never mentioned again. Which begs the question, why did we even need it? In this day and age, thousands of people are addicted to their phones, so what was the point of explaining Phil’s dependence on his device. We could have easily began the movie with Phil waking up in bed with his phone’s alarm and we wouldn’t have batted an eye as to his love for his phone or the apps that keep his attention away from the world at large.

Jexi isn’t necessarily a film that I would watch over and over again in the future, but it is a film that I can recommend to those looking for something fun to watch that has both raunchy tendencies and a strong heart. Just beware: there are some scenes that cannot be unseen. If you come away with one thing from the film, it will be that you will never plug your phone in the same way again.

My Grade: A-

Bonus Reviews:

Paramount, courtesy of visionary director Ang Lee, bring the early-nineties Will Smith back to the big screen against his fifty-year-old self in Gemini Man, a film that relies far too heavily on the CGI (which isn’t always as ground-breaking as it wants to be) and not enough on the story or the characters as Lee tries to push the boundaries of the still-developing de-aging technology to mixed results. B+

They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re altogether ooky, The Addams Family. In this 2019 animated incarnation of the eerily masochistic sadist family, we get to see Gomez (Oscar Isaac) and Morticia’s (Charlize Theron) wedding, how they meet Lurch (Conrad Vernon) and their relocation to New Jersey to get away from townspeople who wish these “monsters” dead, only to go up against a reality home developer (Allison Janney) who is sadistic in her own way. Which only goes to show that just because we’re all a little different, it doesn’t mean we’re all bad. B+

Next week, new movies include Maleficent: Mistress of Evil and Zombieland: Double Tap. If you would like to see a review for one of these, or any other film out next week, please respond in the comments below.

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