‘Nerve’ plays it too safe

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Nerve (2016)

Directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Shulman

In the near future, a highly popular mobile app (no, not Pokémon GO) will become an underground sensation. While playing Nerve, teens dare other teens to do embarrassing or dangerous stunts while “watchers” keep their eyes glued to the screen (for $20/day), with big chunks of that money going to the “player” who completes the task. Unless you bail or fail, of course. Sydney (Emily Meade) is a highly-watched player and friend to Vee (Emma Roberts), a shy photographer. When Sydney urges Vee to try playing Nerve, Vee is hesitant. But she gives it a shot, just once. Then she meets Ian (Dave Franco), a veteran player, who drags Vee along as they, together, get more and more watchers and more and more money. But if you fail or bail, you lose the money you’ve earned. So they get deeper and deeper into the game as the dares get more dangerous and the relationships become strained.

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For a movie all about risk, “Nerve” takes relatively few of them. I’ll start by admitting that “Nerve” kept me interested and engaged for its whole 90 minutes. I wanted to know how it ended. But “Nerve” also has plot holes, like most low-budget action movies set in the future. The technology is never fully explained, and neither is the ending. That would have helped.

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Dave Franco’s comedy in movies like “Neighbors” and “21 Jump Street” is effective, but here his mysterious smolder didn’t put me in its trance, like it was probably intended. And Emma Roberts is incredible in “Scream Queens.” If you haven’t seen it, do. But “Nerve” isn’t a comedy. If it was, the casting might make sense. Here, these two leads don’t have the hutzpah to push a plot along for the entire length of a movie.

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Regardless, “Nerve” is a fun way to spend 90 minutes. If your summer movie standards are low, just an excuse to get out of the heat and see something that’ll hold your attention, go see “Nerve.” If you want quality, this isn’t a risk you’ll want to take.

5.5/10

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