‘BlackBerry’ review: Comedy is sparked from true tech tragedy

‘BlackBerry’ review: Comedy is sparked from true tech tragedy
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‘BlackBerry’ review: Comedy is sparked from true tech tragedy

Tech icons Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs have impressed prestigious dramas like The Social Network and Steve Jobs. But 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 introduced by co-writer, director, and co-star Matt Johnson in the frenetic BlackBerry.

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

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 endlessly. 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 common is as pungent as his raggedy headgear. Meanwhile, Mike, carrying geeky aviator glasses and a shirt the colour of an old envelope, appears to be like more like an unassuming financial institution clerk than tech’s subsequent massive star. It’s little shock then that ball-busting exec Jim (Glenn Howerton shaved right into a balding menace) can barely include his repulsion. But an amazing concept is a good concept, and even with their clumsy pitch — “a cellphone and an email machine all in one thing” — it is clear this can be a nice concept.

Despite their persona clashes and bouts of mistrust, the Canadian trio turns this hybrid system into an entire new trade. BlackBerry charts their hardscrabble beginnings, their heady success, after which the outrageous manipulations — and crimes — dedicated to making an attempt to keep them on high of the smartphone game as soon as the iPhone arrives.

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

Through 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 form of man who’ll pointedly quote Star Wars in a enterprise pitch and fight passionately to protect foolish office traditions, like a plunger’s quirky placement and a weekly film evening — deadlines be damned! But as their firm’s potential grows, Mike’s being lost — as Doug would possibly put it — to the Dark Side. 

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. Where Johnson brings an nearly obnoxious aw-shucks demeanor to Mike, Howerton channels the comedian rage he is proven all through It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to a ruthless level, plunging it mercilessly into BlackBerry’s company tradition. Sure, at first Mike pushes back to protect his invention’s integrity and his staff’ loyalty. But cash adjustments people. By the time BlackBerry hits its predictable mid-way film makeover, Mike is wanting sharper in more methods than one. 

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

Glenn Howerton as Jim Balsillie in "BlackBerry."

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

Amid enterprise conferences, snarled contract negotiations, and outright screaming matches, BlackBerry is much less in the story of the telephone than it’s in 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 price watching. Unfortunately, Baruchel at its middle fumbles. 

A comedic actor who’s made his mark by taking part in lovable goofs, he is oddly solid as a meek introvert who mumbles and emotes by tediously repressed expression. Baruchel is earnest in his portrayal, shedding the jovial smile and shouldering a stiff physicality that speaks to Mike’s internalized battle. But he by no means fairly clicks in the role, feeling like a drag amid warring dragons. Without punchlines or pluck, Baruchel is lost. And as his character is the emotional stakes of the film, BlackBerry by no means fairly comes collectively. 

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

Even if you do not know the story behind BlackBerry, which is predicated on the e-book Losing the Signal by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff, you would possibly properly predict it, as tech icons in films not often get Hollywood glad endings. So, Johnson well wastes no time, shifting swiftly — although not fairly gracefully — by plot factors, often resting to relish in character moments and comeuppance, certainly one of which drew cheers from the tech-savvy SXSW viewers. 

Though often a bumpy experience, Johnson brings loads of earnest nostalgia for this period to the film with a soundtrack that boasts Joy Division, Moby, and Mark Morrison, in addition to prop parts like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II on VHS, and, in fact, the cathartic click on of keys on the titular system. Overall, the journey is more rollicking than rocky. While not amid this year’s most gut-busting comedies, BlackBerry manages to seek out the humor in the heartbreak of this true story, delivering an ending that’s easy but satisfying. 

BlackBerry made its World Premiere at SXSW 2023; a theatrical release will comply with on May 12.