(directors: Ariel Schulman/Henry Joost; screenwriter: Jessica Sharzer/based on the novel by Jeanne Ryan, Joost and Schulman; cinematographer: Michael Simmonds; editors: Jeff McEvoy, Madeleine Gavin; music: Rob Simonsen; cast: Emma Roberts (Yee Delmonico), Dave Franco (Ian), Juliette Lewis (Nancy), Emily Meade (Sydney), Miles Heizer (Tommy), Brian Marc (J.P.), Kimiko Glenn (Liv), Samira Wiley (Hacker Kween), Colson Baker (Ty), Marc John Jefferies (Wes).; Runtime: 96; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Allison Shearmur, Anthony Katagas; Keep Your Head/Lionsgate release; 2016)
“It briefly has enough energy to be diverting, even if it soon moves from cute to ugly to ridiculous.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost (“Paranormal Activity”/”Catfish”) awkwardly co-direct this teenage thriller misfire, that’s written by Jessica Sharzer. She adapts the script to the 2012 novel by Jeanne Ryan, Joost and Schulman . It briefly has enough energy to be diverting, even if it soon moves from cute to ugly to ridiculous.Vee (Emma Roberts) is an industrious but timid Staten Island high school senior, who lives with her harried single mom nurse Nancy (Juliette Lewis). Mom is still grieving the death of her 18 year-old son from two years ago. Syd (Emily Meade) is Vee’s free spirit best friend who plays a risky game called Nerve on the Internet and goads Vee to play this truth or dare game that depends on taking challenging dares and getting paid if successful. Those who don’t play, pay a fee to be watchers and manipulate the game by making requests of the players. Vee is asked by the watchers to partner with a mysterious handsome stranger named Ian (David Franco) after taking the dare to kiss him in public in a diner. Their partnership gains many watchers and the dares get more dangerous, as they are asked to take various dares in different parts of the city. It dramatically but unconvincingly leads to Vee becoming a daredevil, as the game turns into a life-or-death struggle. The 25-year-old Roberts and 31-year-old Franco cannot make me believe for a NYC second they are teens, the story clumsily moves into far-fetched turf making it hard to swallow the muddled narrative and the moralizing lecture at the climax the viewer gets about the dangers of such games is so artificial that it almost made me puke. The dark B film is glib and caters to viewers of the trendy reality TV phenomenona. It has its game operate through a smartphone app, which makes it a film for this youth generation.
REVIEWED ON 7/31/2016 GRADE: C-