Director: Scott Speer
Cast: Ross Lynch, Olivia Holt, Courtney Eaton, Harvey Guillen, Gregg Sulkin, Brec Bassinger, Maude Green, Markian Tarasiuk, Andrew Herr
Runtime: 1 hr 46 mins
Rating: PG13 (Some Sexual References)
Released By: Shaw Organisation
Opening Day: 12 April 2018
Synopsis: Moving is never easy. But it’s especially hard when you’re moving across the country and it’s your senior year of high school. Kyle Moore (Ross Lynch) is a skateboarding surfer from Huntington Beach, California who suddenly has his life uprooted three thousand miles away to Connecticut when his parents split up. At his new east coast school, Kyle’s first day is one humiliating incident after the next, resulting in his cell phone being smashed to pieces by bullies. But everything changes when he goes to the mall to get the broken phone fixed. Kyle meets a wacky phone salesman named “The Bearded Dude” (played by Instagram sensation, ‘The Fat Jewish’), who hands him a new phone with a mysterious social media app called, YOUniverse, which will allow Kyle to be whoever or do whatever he wants. And that’s exactly what he does. Kyle answers the social media app’s questions and in doing so opens up a world of magic…
Every teenager wishes that they were popular in high school, so what if there were an app which could fulfil their every egocentric wish? That’s the premise of ‘Status Update’, a ‘careful what you wish for’ teen fantasy with a social media twist.
Here, the 17-year-old Kyle (Disney Channel vet Ross Lynch) finds himself a misfit in the new Connecticut school he’s moved to, but manages to turn his fortunes around with a mysterious app named U-niverse. All Kyle needs to do is to enter who he wants to be and/ or what he wishes of others as a social media update and voila!
From acquiring the voice of a classically trained opera singer, to dancing like Bruno Mars in the canteen, to a ferris wheel ride in the middle of a meadow, Kyle employs the app to win the heart of the songbird of his dreams Dani (Olivia Holt). To be fair to Kyle, it isn’t all about him – not only does he gift his chubby best friend Lonnie (Harvey Guillen) with some impressive skateboarding moves in order to impress the rest of the school, he also uses his newfound powers to punish the Alpha hockey jock cum resident school bully Derek (Gregg Sulkin) and stand up to the self-absorbed male choir lead Brian (Markian Tarasiuk).
But as such stories go, this one scripted by ’17 Again’ writer Jason Filardi follows the familiar trajectory of cautionary tales. Instead of simply teaching Derek a lesson, Kyle gets carried away with the fame he finds as the school’s new hockey captain, and besides neglecting Lonnie for his teammates, Kyle starts to fall for Derek’s queen-bee girlfriend Charlotte (Courtney Eaton). Indeed, when reality bites (as it does), Kyle will be forced to decide just what kind of person he wants to be as well as what kind of life he wants to lead.
Whereas the first hour is the stuff of disposable teen fantasy, what follows actually turns out more poignant than you’re probably expecting it to be. With some words of wisdom from his mother (Wendi McLendon-Covey), Kyle starts to realise how social media is but “everybody’s highlight reel of what they wants you to see: bulls—t with a filter on it to make it look pretty” – and among other things, sees how his egotistical actions in the past have blinded him to the truth about his parents’ separation, made him a lousy friend to Lonnie, and jeopardised a beautiful duet in song and companionship that he had started with Dani.
It’s no surprise Kyle will get his act together, but it’s also easy to be won over by that predictable but nonetheless sweet ending. There is enough boyish charm in Lynch for you to root for him, and the chemistry between him and Holt is winning. The supporting cast also do their part to enliven their respective scenes, including Eaton as the school’s mean girl-in-chief, Famke Janssen as her sexually repressed mom, and John Michael Higgins (from the ‘Pitch Perfect’ series) as the deadpan school choir master.
On his part, Speer keeps the movie humming along at a reasonably engaging clip. That said, it is certainly disappointing that he hasn’t tried for a sharper treatment of the material, especially in bringing across its message about social media and its fakery. Notwithstanding, as a typical coming-of-age high-school romance comedy, ‘Status Update’ is still worth sharing, As long as you’re not looking for the next ‘Mean Girls’ or ‘Clueless’, you’ll enjoy this unassuming fantasy for what it’s worth.
(It's no classic, but this high-school wish fulfilment fantasy with a social media twist is still sweet, charming and occasionally poignant enough to win you over)
Review by Gabriel Chong