'BlackBerry' overview: Comedy is sparked from true tech tragedy

Tech icons Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have impressed prestigious dramas like The Social Community and Steve Jobs. However for Mike Lazaridis, Doug Fregin, and Jim Balsillie, the minds behind the groundbreaking Blackberry, their rise and fall is the stuff of comedy. Or at the least it’s as offered by co-writer, director, and co-star Matt Johnson within the frenetic BlackBerry.

Making its North American Premiere on the SXSW Pageant, BlackBerry is in good firm with Tetris, one other tech-centered biopic that turns doubtlessly boring enterprise issues into chuckle-rumbling bits. Past their floor similarities, each movies succeed or fail due to their central forged. 


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What’s BlackBerry about?

In 1996, Doug (Johnson) and Mike (Jay Baruchel in a glistening silver wig) tumbled into a gathering that will change their lives ceaselessly. The inventing besties aren’t a lot to take a look at. Ever-bedecked in a sweatband, juvenile graphic tees, and gymnasium shorts, Doug’s disdain for enterprise as standard is as pungent as his raggedy headgear. In the meantime, Mike, sporting geeky aviator glasses and a shirt the colour of an outdated envelope, seems to be extra like an unassuming financial institution clerk than tech’s subsequent massive star. It is little shock then that ball-busting exec Jim (Glenn Howerton shaved right into a balding menace) can barely include his repulsion. However an ideal concept is a superb concept, and even with their clumsy pitch — “a cellphone and an electronic mail machine multi functional factor” — it is clear this can be a nice concept.

Regardless of their persona clashes and bouts of mistrust, the Canadian trio turns this hybrid machine into a complete new trade. BlackBerry charts their hardscrabble beginnings, their heady success, after which the outrageous manipulations — and crimes — dedicated to making an attempt to maintain them on prime of the smartphone sport as soon as the iPhone arrives.

BlackBerry is a cautionary story jolted with humor and coronary heart. 

By the three interweaving arcs of Doug, Mike, and Jim, the script (co-written by Johnson and Matthew Miller) charts a stark story of Goofus vs. Greed. Doug is the type of man who’ll pointedly quote Star Wars in a enterprise pitch and combat passionately to protect foolish workplace traditions, like a plunger’s quirky placement and a weekly film night time — deadlines be damned! However as their firm’s potential grows, Mike’s being misplaced — as Doug would possibly put it — to the Darkish Aspect. 

Jim, a shark in a go well with, is all the time on the transfer up the company ladder, and he will not endure fools or dawdlers. The place Johnson brings an nearly obnoxious aw-shucks demeanor to Mike, Howerton channels the comedian rage he is proven all through It is At all times Sunny in Philadelphia to a ruthless level, plunging it mercilessly into BlackBerry’s company tradition. Positive, at first Mike pushes again to protect his invention’s integrity and his staff’ loyalty. However cash adjustments folks. By the point BlackBerry hits its predictable mid-way film makeover, Mike is trying sharper in additional methods than one. 

Glenn Howerton hits hilarity; Jay Baruchel struggles in a straight-man position. 

Glenn Howerton as Jim Balsillie in

Glenn Howerton as Jim Balsillie in “BlackBerry.”
Credit score: IFC Movies

Amid enterprise conferences, snarled contract negotiations, and outright screaming matches, BlackBerry is much less within the story of the telephone than it’s within the battle for Mike’s soul. Johnson casts himself and his guileless exuberance because the gawky angel on Mike’s shoulder, whereas Howerton is a capitalist satan. They each ship performances that brush off the cobwebs of status biopics in favor of one thing funnier and fiercer. As a longtime Sunny fan, Howerton’s outbursts alone make BlackBerry value watching. Sadly, Baruchel at its middle fumbles. 

A comedic actor who’s made his mark by enjoying lovable goofs, he is oddly forged as a meek introvert who mumbles and emotes by way of tediously repressed expression. Baruchel is earnest in his portrayal, shedding the jovial smile and shouldering a stiff physicality that speaks to Mike’s internalized wrestle. However he by no means fairly clicks within the position, feeling like a drag amid warring dragons. With out punchlines or pluck, Baruchel is misplaced. And as his character is the emotional stakes of the film, BlackBerry by no means fairly comes collectively. 


The BlackBerry Basic is formally useless

As a filmmaker, Johnson’s power is infectious. Forward of the SXSW premiere, he took to the stage in Doug’s costume, excitedly chattering to the viewers in regards to the cuts made to the movie since its World Premiere on the Berlinale.(opens in a brand new tab) His vaguely chaotic vibes infuse BlackBerry with jolting pacing, racing by way of the plot, montages, and archival footage with the assistance of acutely captured inventory characters. For instance, Michael Ironside crackles as a enterprise bully, whereas Wealthy Sommer warmly shrugs as a humble but ingenious nerd.

Even when you do not know the story behind BlackBerry, which relies on the guide Dropping the Sign by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, you would possibly effectively predict it, as tech icons in films not often get Hollywood blissful endings. So, Johnson well wastes no time, transferring swiftly — although not fairly gracefully — by way of plot factors, often resting to relish in character moments and comeuppance, one in every of which drew cheers from the tech-savvy SXSW viewers. 

Although often a bumpy journey, Johnson brings loads of earnest nostalgia for this period to the film with a soundtrack that boasts Pleasure Division, Moby, and Mark Morrison(opens in a brand new tab), in addition to prop components like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II on VHS, and, in fact, the cathartic click on of keys on the titular machine. Total, the journey is extra rollicking than rocky. Whereas not amid this yr’s most gut-busting comedies, BlackBerry manages to seek out the humor within the heartbreak of this true story, delivering an ending that’s easy but satisfying. 

BlackBerry is now in theaters. (opens in a brand new tab)

UPDATE: Could. 10, 2023, 5:08 p.m. EDT BlackBerry was initially reviewed out its World Premiere at SXSW in March of 2023.

Originally posted 2023-05-12 09:00:00.