In one of the sadder examples of where the entertainment industry is going these days, CBS Films has been absorbed back into its parent company, and from here on out will only be producing content for CBS All Access, yet another streaming site that isn’t worth buying unless you really, really, really want to watch new Star Trek. Part of the reason Netflix and Hulu were able to succeed was because they were the only streamers at the time, making it tempting to “cut the cord” for traditional TV services to get the same content while saving money. Now the market has been oversaturated, and there are so many streamers for so many different bits of content that it’s actually more expensive to get them all than to just stick with cable or satellite. Economics!
Anyway, the final release for CBS films is the otherwise unremarkable Jexi, likely the result of a pitch meeting where everyone was stoned and someone suggested, “Hey, what if the computer from Her was a real ball-buster?” The movie is incredibly stupid from beginning to end, but like other movies this year, at times it is a fun kind of stupid. Literally nothing in the film makes sense, but the jokes are solid enough – at least from where I sit – to at least justify its existence.
Adam DeVine stars as Phil, your average, mild-mannered dork who works a go-nowhere job but can still somehow afford an apartment in San Francisco. He writes listicles for a Buzzfeed knockoff website, and dreams of being a legitimate journalist and moving to his company’s “real news” department, itself another nod to Buzzfeed’s occasional ability to break hard news like the Steele Dossier among the viral clickbait. However, Phil is so obsessed with his phone that he basically ignores the entire world around him, including his over-the-top social media addicted dick boss (Michael Peña) and the two other list generators with whom he’s somehow worked for over two years without ever engaging them (Charlyne Yi and Ron Funches).
While walking around one day, Phil literally bumps into Cate (Alexandra Shipp), a bike shop owner who abandoned social media because she didn’t like the fake persona she had to keep up while using it. She is crazy hot, and Phil is instantly attracted, but the bump caused him to drop his phone, destroying it in the process. When he gets a new one, he is introduced to Jexi (voice of Rose Byrne), the Siri-esque operating system (who Jexi herself dismisses as a whore). Phil accepts the terms of service without reading them (this paints him as lazy and stupid, but have you ever met a piece of tech that you could buy and use without accepting the terms?), and Jexi becomes his negging, mean girl best friend, constantly berating and mocking him in the name of “making his life better.”
What follows is your standard rom-com, with Phil and Cate forging an unlikely bond with Jexi’s help (mostly in shutting herself down so Phil can’t make awkward, creepy calls or send dick pics). Phil gains the confidence to try new things, hang out with coworkers, and even go for the brass ring of the “real news” job.
However, as Phil and Cate get closer, Jexi – claiming a glitch – becomes jealous and insanely possessive of Phil, to the point where she takes active measures to ruin his life in retaliation for him dating someone who doesn’t even have Google Maps installed in her. It’s up to Phil to either placate Jexi and date his phone, abandoning his lady love to her much more traditionally attractive ex-fiancé (Justin Hartley), or find a way to escape her, as well as his smartphone addiction in general.
Now, this premise is already tired, and there a ton of problems with this movie. Michael Peña’s character is the definition of a hostile work environment, and it’s very hard to believe he’d be allowed to abuse his workers the way he does in 2019 San Francisco. Phil buys his phones from a store clerk played by Wanda Sykes who compares him to a crackhead, behavior that would surely get her fired in real life. Phil and Cate consummate their attraction backstage at a Kid Cudi concert which is problematic for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that Kid Cudi hasn’t been relevant for at least five years, to say nothing of the trope of shoehorning a celebrity cameo into the proceedings just because.
But all that said, the movie is funny in a lot of parts. Jexi herself shit-talks with the best of them, and acts as an audience cipher as we cringe at Phil’s efforts. Wanda Sykes is wholly inappropriate in her customer service skills, but damn if she’s not committed to the bit, selling every second of screen time she has so we can laugh at the sheer absurdity of it. Michael Peña is a dick, but he’s a very funny dick. Yi and Funches, being comedy experts, get a few good one-liners in.
And honestly, I have to confess that I relate to Phil a bit. I’m happily in a relationship now, but there were several years where I was just as awkward, questioning every social move I made, deluding myself into thinking that a woman who showed me a basic level of courtesy wanted me to make romantic overtures. I’ve certainly embarrassed myself a good number of times. Hell, there’s a sequence where Phil plays kickball with his coworkers that mirrored my childhood so much it was painful. It probably sounds like a backhanded compliment, but the man really knows how to play a loser.
On the whole, this will be a largely forgettable movie, something to get drunk/high and watch on HBO MaxGoPayExtraStreamAppleTV+KillMeHuluPlusMinus in about six months. It’s dumb, but you’ll chuckle. That’s all the film is aiming for, and that’s all there is to it.
Join the conversation in the comments below! What film should I review next? Do you spend too much time on your phone? Fuck, Marry, Kill – Alexa, Cortana, Siri? Let me know!