Phil is a cliche who probably doesn’t exist in real life: he’s obsessed with his phone, he writes listicles for a living, he’s incapable of human interaction and would rather spend the night watching videos online than spending time with (or heck even making) friends.
Do Phils really exist? I suppose there’s a grain of truth in there somewhere: some people are overly attached to their phones, and overly desperate for likes on social media. But most people manage to have phones AND human friends. Our phones give us directions to where we want to go, they tell us who’s celebrating a birthday, and what bill needs to be paid. They help us call a car, and order lunch, and share a recipe. They remind us how to spell ‘accommodate’ and when our period is due, or overdue. They connect us to our adorable nephews who haven’t stopped growing just because they’re in quarantine. They keep us entertained on planes, they keep us up to date on elections, and they provide a near infinite supply of puppy pictures. All on one pocket sized device! So yeah, I’m not down on phones, or on young people for using them. I’m not sure who benefits for perpetuating the myth that only young people are obnoxious about their phones, but it’s patently untrue. Moms were the first to adopt cell phones, so they could stay in constant contact with their children. Moms are basically the only people who still use phones for calling people (ew!). Dads invented the belt holster so you could show off your love of wearable electronics (before they were technically wearable) while also accidentally broadcasting what a huge douche you are. When someone is blocking your view of the Mona Lisa by taking pictures with their iPad, 9 out of 10 times it’s a baby boomer. Elbowed in the eye by someone ineptly using a selfie stick? Boomer. Someone talking on their cell in the public bathroom stall next to yours? Most likely a boomer. Cell phone ringing during a Broadway performance? Definitely a boomer. And yet: Phil. Phil (Adam Devine) just can’t be separated from his phone. So yeah, he’s totally panicked when he literally runs into Cate (Alexandra Shipp) one day, destroying his phone in the process. Without a thought for the woman who may also be injured, he races his broken phone to the nearest ER cell phone store where employee Denice (Wanda Sykes) breaks the bad news: it’s not going to make it. You’d think that by the speed with which he rushed the thing to urgent care he’d be quite upset, but not only are cell phones replaceable, constant upgrades are a way to signal status. Behold the new phone!
This phone is unlike other phones. Its operating system is feisty. Call her Jexi. She sounds suspiciously like Rose Byrne, and she knows everything there is to know about Phil, since he’s documented it obsessively in the cloud. Not only does Jexi know everything, she has opinions about it. And she starts steering his life in the direction she believes is best.
Imagine if HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Sam (Scarlett Johansson) from Her had an AI baby and named her Jexi. Jexi is strangely alluring for someone who doesn’t have a body. She’s no Ava (Alicia Vikander) from Ex Machina. She’s more like your craziest, most jealous, most stalkery ex, only Jexi has access to your dating profiles, your porn collection, your work contacts, and your dick pics.
Even though the 2020 movie season is experiencing extreme drought, I scrolled right by this rental for many months. I’m not much of an Adam Devine fan and though desperate times call for desperate measures, I held out hope that I’d not hit my bottom quite yet. But don’t despair. This viewing wasn’t motivated by desperation so much as it now being able to stream on Amazon Prime (so, free for me, since I have an account). But even free was too high of a cost – what’s worse than an unfunny comedy? An unfunny comedy that makes you wish you’d just watched Her instead. Or Ex Machina. An unfunny comedy that makes you wish you’d watched any other AI movie, or even any other unfunny comedy that didn’t get your hopes up just as you resigned yourself to it. Because while it was Adam Devine’s smug pug face keeping me away this whole time, actually clicking on it revealed castmates like Sykes, Byrne, and Michael Pena, all of whom led me to believe this might not have been as bad as I’d feared and then it was WORSE. Arghghghghg.
This movie is for a very, very small demographic: baby boomers lacking in senses of both humour and irony who will suffer through unfunny comedies just to feel superior to young people as they scroll through Facebook, clicking on all the COVID clickbait conspiracies planted by Russia as if they aren’t the ones who used screens as babysitters in the first place. Ahem.