'Status Update': Film Review
Scott Speer's high school comedy stars Ross Lynch as a kid with a phone app that grants his wishes.
A "careful what you wish for" teen fantasy produced on an assembly line by people who'd rather be making a musical, Scott Speer's Status Update rings about as true as Facebook's latest "We'll protect your data ... no, for real this time!" campaign. Starring Disney Channel vet Ross Lynch as a new kid in school who becomes BMOC thanks to a magic phone app, it's as generic as Lynch's other recent big-screen outing — playing the eponymous serial killer in My Friend Dahmer — was daring. That film deserved a stronger theatrical push than it got; this one should zip quickly to streaming outlets, lest it poison the appealing actor's prospects in movie theaters.
Lynch plays Kyle, a shaggy-blond Californian who has been dragged to Connecticut by a mom (Wendi McLendon-Covey) who was fed up with her jobless surfer husband (Rob Riggle). In an avalanche of exposition, his first day at the local school introduces him to every teen-movie stereotype, including the chubby nerd destined to be his best pal (Lonnie, played by Harvey Guillen); the golden-voiced girl of his dreams (Olivia Holt's Dani); and the Alpha jock, Derek (Gregg Sulkin), who wastes no time destroying Kyle's cellphone by using it as a puck in a game of hall hockey.
Rushing to the mall to repair his phone, he finds a kiosk operator (Instagram celeb doofus Josh Ostrovsky) who gives him a replacement, urging him to try a new app, U-niverse, that will "make [his] life a little more Namaste." (Perhaps worried that the mystery man's dialogue isn't annoying enough, Speer has Ostrovsky shove his face into the camera several times to seal the deal.)
Kyle soon learns that any fantasy he enters as his status on the app quickly becomes true: His dad and his car are transported cross-country; he can fight like Bruce Lee and dance like Bruno Mars. (Which basically means dance like a tired Michael Jackson, but you get it.) As with most granting of magic wishes, it pays to be specific , lest one's newfound talents prove embarrassing. But Kyle gets the hang of things, and soon he's sharing sweet moments on Ferris wheels with Dani. The two bond over her songwriting, and are set to duet at a music competition. (John Michael Higgins, as the school's choir leader, is a real trooper here, giving his all to some lousy material.)
Then, wishing his way out of one too many sticky situations, he finds himself the victim of success in ways no viewer will buy. Open-faced and guileless, Lynch doesn't play Kyle as the kind of teen who'd covet Derek's campus glory or his queen-bee girlfriend (Charlotte Alden, whose character, if you can call it that, is the film's laziest creation). And Jason Filardi's script never crafts scenes that might tempt Kyle away from his happy contentment — it just suddenly has Kyle forgetting all about his buddy and the girl he's in love with, hanging with the hockey bros as their new team captain and letting the vapid hot girls fawn over him.
The solution to Kyle's problems is as predictable as everything else in this cookie-cutter picture, which is only made tolerable by the surprisingly solid cast Speer has attracted. The solution to Lynch's problem — how to segue to the big screen after success on kids' shows — is trickier, but avoiding many more roles like this is probably key.
Production companies: Brightlight Pictures, DNA Pictures
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Cast: Ross Lynch, Olivia Holt, Harvey Guillen, Gregg Sulkin, Wendi McLendon-Covey, Rob Riggle, John Michael Higgins, Josh Ostrovsky, Courtney Eaton, Famke Janssen, Martin Donovan
Director: Scott Speer
Screenwriter: Jason Filardi
Producers: Jennifer Gibgot, Dominic Rustam, Adam Shankman, Shawn Williamson
Executive producers: Arielle Boisvert, Jonathan Deckter, Fan Dong, Mason Xu
Director of photography: Russ T. Alsobrook
Production designer: Liz Kay
Costume designer: Lorraine Carson
Editor: Sean Valla
Composer: Jeff Cardoni
Casting directors: Neely Eisenstein, Maureen Webb
Rated PG-13, 106 minutes