It usually feels both too easy and inaccurate to describe a movie as “X crossed with Y,” but When We First Met really does feel like Groundhog Day crossed with Click—with a pinch of a rom-com sprinkled in. It’s a relatively novel approach to a story about a guy trying to win the heart of a girl he likes, although it only gets there after about two thirds of its running time. Up until then? Groundhog Day clone pretty much through and through. And while it never gets “good,” but it does get better.
When We First Met is about Noah (Adam DeVine), who is in love with Avery (Alexandra Daddario). Three years earlier, they met at a party and had a wonderful night together, but Avery put him in the friend zone. He’s regretted it ever since, because he believed that if he did something different, they would be a couple. It’s now Avery’s engagement party, as she met Ethan (Robbie Amell) the day after meeting him, and they fell instantly in love. Noah gets drunk at the party, winds up in a jazz club, goes to a photo booth, and travels back in time to the day that he and Avery first met.
He got his wish. He’s got a shot to do it all over again. And for the majority of the rest of the movie, he’ll give it his best—using the information he gained in the previous attempt to improve his chances on the next one. The Click portion of the movie comes in when the time travel device only lets him relive that one day before catapulting him back to the present, where he has to learn what happened over the last three years. His personality and decisions that night decide how the next three years of his life unravel; he has no control after that.
It’s very, very, very Groundhog Day-y, but since that premise is no longer novel and because none of the characters are particularly well developed, it’s not going to reach those heights. It’s not going to come close, really. We can predict how most of it plays out—although there is a bit of fun to be had in seeing the “present” scenes after the time jump, just to see how those decisions wound up impacting his life after all that time.
When We First Met isn’t unwatchable and it’s the type of moderately pleasant movie that fits perfectly on a platform like Netflix.
There are no stakes and no risks; there’s no limit to how many times Noah could use this device and no detrimental impact for continuing to do so. But the plot eventually offers him a reason, and that’s when the film starts to get more interesting. Its purpose is eventually shown to us, its two messages have come to the forefront, and now it just needs to “prove” them, so to speak. And it’s moderately effective after this point.
And we can tell why it needed to go through the slog of the Groundhog Day clone in order to get to this point. But it doesn’t work because the characters aren’t very strong and because there are almost no laughs. DeVine is a funny person but he’s not allowed to demonstrate much of that here, as the script is curiously devoid of even many attempted laughs, and since he co-wrote the screenplay, that’s at least partly on him. But there’s also no depth to these people—he just wants to be with this girl, the girl just wants to be with the other guy, and the other guy is super nice and just wants to be with the girl. It makes the first two thirds too dull to be worthwhile; by the time it gets to its point, we’ve given up.
Still, When We First Met isn’t unwatchable and it’s the type of moderately pleasant movie that fits perfectly on a platform like Netflix, where you can sort of half-watch it while doing household chores and not really miss anything. It wouldn’t be worth the price of admission, but if we’re not paying anything additional? Maybe it’s worth it for the high-concept (if unoriginal) premise and the eventual messages it has.
Conclusion: When We First Met is almost passable entertainment, but takes too long to get to the part where it’s interesting.
Recommendation: When We First Met is a half-watch-while-doing-chores kind of movie.