Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 14, 2016)
Taran Killam becomes the latest Saturday Night Live castmember to take the lead on the big screen via 2016’s Casual Encounters. Justin Davis (Killam) finds himself heartbroken and lonely when his long-term girlfriend Sarah (Aimee-Lynn Chadwick) dumps him.
Despondent, Justin takes the advice of his pals and tries online dating. Along with help from his quirky co-worker Laura (Brooklyn Decker), we trace Justin’s path through the dating scene.
Gee, you don’t suppose the buddies will morph into lovers, do you? Tip to filmmakers: if you want us to buy the potential leading lady as a dorky girl, don’t hire a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model. If the presence of Decker as the “opposite sex pal” doesn’t telegraph the character’s eventual move to swan, what does?
Not that the movie seems consistent in this regard. The filmmakers try their best to make Decker look nerdy, but they also refer to her in a way that makes it sound like she’s supposed to be super-sexy from day one. There’s no logic to various aspects of the Laura character’s depiction – why go to such pains to “deglamorize” Decker and then still tell us she’s viewed as a top babe?
This doesn’t become the only flaw in Encounters, a movie packed with so many gaffes and goofs that I’m not sure I believe anyone actually watched it before it got slapped on a DVD. The film suffers from rampant filmmaking mistakes and lapses in logic. Lines will make incomprehensible references that require perplexing jumps in continuity.
This means comments that come out of nowhere and make no sense. For instance, Justin tells a client that all the tech support personnel have at least high school diplomas – why does he say this? The remark pops up out of the blue and fails to connect to the rest of the conversation.
We also see basic editing and camera problems. Why does the camera have to constantly move during even the most basic dialogue shot? Why do lines filmed “over the shoulder” never match the actors’ mouths? Why do the inserts scream “hey you – I’m an insert”?
More importantly: why did some reasonably well-known folks like Killam, Decker, David Krumholtz and David Arquette get stuck in this wholly terrible movie? Encounters comes with the potential to be a passable rom-com, but the filmmakers lack even the most rudimentary talent.
Actually, for the movie to enjoy any success, those involved would’ve needed to burn the script and start from scratch. The screenplay seems so inane and witless that it destroys the project from minute one. No film based on this one’s text could hope to succeed.
Nothing else goes right, either. As mentioned, directorial choices make little sense, and we get a clunky, awkward flick as a result. Encounters seems like someone’s first effort in film school, not something backed by a studio.
The actors do little to redeem Encounters, though they seem more invested than I might expect – except for Killam, who couldn’t possibly look more bored. Perhaps he realized he found himself stuck in a terrible movie and he couldn’t hide his depression. Whatever the case, Killam creates a dull lead with no personality or charm.
Even with stellar performances, though, Encounters would fail. We find no character development or tension, as the movie simply meanders from one silly situation to another with no purpose. Contrived and idiotic, you’ll not find a single believable moment – or any that prompt interest, for that matter.
Heck, Encounters barely qualifies as a movie. It rolls the end credits before it hits the 75-minute mark – and then subjects us to “video personals” that come out of nowhere and boast no apparent connection to the rest of the film.
That’s Casual Encounters in a nutshell. It’s a movie with no logic, coherence, intelligence or wit that comes slapped together without even vague attempts at clarity or polish. Nothing positive comes from this amateurish disaster.