Oh dear god, Hollywood really wants every other generation to hate millenials. What with the recent craze of POKEMON GO! I guess it’s only natural to make a movie about an app that puts its users in extreme danger. But seriously… I don’t think I’ve ever seen more annoying advertising. Not everyone can read words backwards, guys! Hell, I can, and even I had to take a minute to see what the hell you were doing.
Alright, so lets look at the cast. Emma Roberts I remember from her Nickelodeon beginnings and has gone on to do more mature roles. She’s a lot less obnoxious about it than Anne Hathaway or Lindsay Lohan by staying out of the spotlight, or getting in said spotlight via some popular and well-crafted projects, like the TV show AMERICAN HORROR STORY. Can’t say I’m her biggest fan or even remember her very well from HORROR STORY, but it’s still interesting to see her starring in a bigger movie like this. Dave Franco I actually kind of prefer over James. James is the superior actor, but only when he takes on those roles that challenge him. For every 127 HOURS, he has five similar movies to PINEAPPLE EXPRESS. Not that I’m saying he’s bad in those, but we’ve seen ’em before and sometimes he is kind of annoying. Its not often he branches out. At least Dave is consistently in comedy and consistently more enjoyable to watch than James. But I digress.
This flick is also co-directed: Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, both men having co-directed PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 3 and 4 together. So far, I’m groaning as I never liked the Paranormal Activity movies. However, the screenplay was written by Jessica Sharzer. One script she previously wrote was SPEAK (2004), and I hear-tell it’s one of Kristen Stewart’s finest acting jobs of her career. Sharzer also would go on to write a few episodes of AMERICAN HORROR STORY. Now I’m starting to see a little bit of potential, but it all pretty much hinges on how good that writing really is.
Pretty much, I’m going in with low-expectations. I don’t buy into this premise and expecting lame reasons as to why these characters can’t just walk away from their dares progressively getting more humiliating or dangerous, but here’s hoping that Sharzer knows what she’s doing. This is my honest opinion of NERVE.
The story follows teen Venus “Vee” (Emma Roberts), on the verge of graduating high school. In the wake of it comes a new interactive cell phone game called “Nerve,” a game of truth or dare, but no truth, and completing every dare challenge rewards the player with money. Vee’s best friend, Sydney (Emily Meade), is completely hooked on it while Vee is a little too skeptical. But after Sydney embarrasses Vee by telling her football crush that she likes him, only to be be met with being told that she isn’t her type, Vee joins Nerve out of rebellion. Her first dare is making out with a random stranger, which is how she meets fellow Nerve player, Ian (Dave Franco). The two embark on an adventurous night of embarrassment and risk-taking… until the game seems to be taking things way too far and the dares become a little more personal, and a little too dangerous.
Alright, so the movie isn’t nearly as crappy as I thought it’d be, but… yeah, there’s as much enjoyable crap as there is just crap-crap, particularly the more the story progresses, landing cliché after cliché after frustration. Yeah, this movie is kind of all over the place. It’s a bunch of teen drama, then it’s this “rebel against the norm,” coming of age, then magically becomes a snub, wannabe horror flick. It’s as stupid as it sounds. Whether or not it’s the kind of stupid that would amuse you if obviously open for debate. For me, it swung both ways.
Everyone is a walking-talking cliché. Vee is the generic nice girl with little personality, Sydney’s the slut with a heart of gold, Tommy’s the token boy crush, and you have the nameless token black and Asian friend. Yes, they blend so well into the background, they don’t have names (yes they do, I’m just being sarcastic)! Neither Roberts, nor Franco are bad, per se, but there’s not a lot to the characters they’re portraying.
I admit, there’s some fun ideas here. A phone game that offers you challenges, and if you succeed, you get money for it. Sometimes they’re pretty simple, easy money, sometimes a little more daring, amounting to bigger rewards. I actually do find myself sitting here wondering how far I’d go for a little easy cash. Here’s the problem though, and the movie technically royally fucks up from the get-go. The whole idea is that you string together challenges to make money. 100 dollars here for this challenge, 200 for this one, amounting to 300, and so on and so forth. The rules of the game specifically state that if you fail your challenge, or bail on it (meaning you accept, then decide you don’t want to do it), you lose the money you earned. So… how does someone just do a challenge and get the money? No string of dares, no stacking on the prizes, just simply, “Yeah, I just needed enough money to go to the movies and splurge.” The movie is quick to point out the guys that died playing the game, but there’s never any mention of a guy that made bank and is laughing in his Lamborghini. It’s never explained where it ends. As far as the movie states, you just keep doing dares until you give up. You could string together so much money to become a millionaire and if you fail doing something laughably simple, you lose every penny. Well that’s a load of horse-shit. And before anyone tells me, “Yeah, Daniel, that’s the point!” Well then how in holy penis wrinkle fuck shit are there only three fucking people, out of the thousands, possibly millions, of people around the globe that play or watch this game, only three kids actually catch on that this is all for sick pleasure? I mean seriously, no one else called this shit out? And how is this massively popular game such a secret? Here’s a dare for you people: in one year, find me JUST ONE PERSON that hasn’t heard of POKÉMON GO!! Yeah, it’s been a month since the game’s launch and it’s already reached the point of dying off in terms of people giving a shit. But everyone’s heard of it. You can’t convince me a game that’s all about daring people for monetary gain stays a secret, no matter how many subscribers claim to be all hush-hush. I don’t buy it.
And the movie does fall into that cliché where a character should be explaining his situation, but instead is overly cryptic, or talks in circles instead of just saying it. But no, the movie suspends realism for needless drama.
Don’t even get me started on the ending, which is hilariously over the top and is trying to be like a Mad Max film or something.
And seriously, I got really annoyed with the neon lights. NEON DEMON got away with that shit because it was a surreal art-house film that gave it an other-worldly feel to it. Here, it’s just plastered on because it looks cool. Yeah, my pulsating head-ache thanks you, movie. And stop with the backward floating text! I know what you’re trying to do there! Stop it! I don’t read shit backwards!
I have to admit though… *sigh* Franco is actually pretty charming. He’s about the only character that you genuinely feel for. He’s a thoughtful guy and there’s a few legit sweet moments with him. There’s a scene where the dare is for him to pick out a tattoo that she has to get. Earlier in the story, she says that the book, To the Lighthouse is her favorite book. The tattoo she gets is of a lighthouse, hoping that whatever she’s looking for in participating in Nerve, he hopes she finds it. Yeah, I internally went, “Aww.” I wish the rest of the movie really followed suit with him.
I suppose the final five minutes are also pretty clever, and some of the antics performed can be visually interesting or exciting to watch, but a ton of logic is left by the wayside and it’s hard to take most of this seriously. Maybe it’s not supposed to be, but then it would need to stop taking itself so seriously. Essentially, the first half is mostly worth it, minus to boring high school drama crap, but the closer to the ending the story gets, the more stupid it becomes. I won’t say I hated this movie, as interesting performances from strong actors do hold it together, despite a slew of bland characters. I think if this was kind of a dark satire on interactive cell phone games, this could have worked a lot better. But I’m unimpressed. You can cancel my subscription, NERVE, because this watcher is no longer interested in your silly movie.
My honest rating: a weak 3/5