Over the last decade or so we’ve seen more than a few films about the behind the scenes of making a film or popular things like Facebook or a mop in Joy for example. BlackBerry as the title suggests is the behind the scenes of how this famous mobile device came to be. It’s not as simple as you’d think. It’s actually a funny version of this story but who knows maybe the real story isn’t that funny. I sure hope not.
Mike (Jay Baruchrl) and Doug (Matthew Johnson) go to a tech company in Waterloo, Ontario in 1996 to pitch their new device Pocket Link that is an all in one phone, computer and internet device. At first Jim (Glenn Howerton) says the pitch isn’t bad and they have to leave with their tails between their legs. Until he has issues with his own company. So he goes to their company Research in Motion to try and help them bring their device to success. The problem is he doesn’t realize how dysfunctional this group really is. They are a mess.
This story is based in Canada so maybe there is a little about it that gets lost in translation but it’s a story that when you think about it you just can’t help but laugh at these people for their ineptitude. This man comes in and lights a fire under these very smart guys but all they do is want to play and watch movies their favorite bring Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. He does start to put a rift between the two founding fathers of the company even though he is co-ceo. He also has his own agenda to make himself look great in the eyes of those who doubted him in the past.
A partnership with a new company launches them into the stratosphere and the brains of the operation takes them to new heights in the stock market and global success. That allows them to create new talent and bring in other geniuses who have experience building the groundwork behind firewalls and using various ways to make their device better in the global marketplace. The problem is ego have gotten in the way and peoples greed have got the best of them. It’s not funny but it is in a way.
An aspect of the comedic side of this film is the looks of the characters. This movie won’t get any Academy Award nominations for it’s make up and hairstyling team. There are two distinct hair pieces that are awful and those are a bald cap on the Howerton character and various gray and white wigs on the Baruchel character. These are laughingly bad but maybe that’s the point. They want people to laugh at all of this stuff because the story is so absurd in a way. I can’t put my finger on it.
The performances from the three leads are very good. They don’t overplay their hand. They know this story is a ridiculous one but they play it straight. Right up until the end when they are being arrested for stock fraud and other legal infractures. Its just hard for me to take this story serious with the hair pieces looking so absurd and one character flying all over the place making deals and trying to buy hockey teams and move them to Canada.
The rest of the cast of the film are played by some character actors you might know though. Sal Rubinek plays the head of a tech company that goes into business with the guys from RIM. Michael Ironside is brought in to the company to knock heads and get all the guys who are having fun most of the time to be more accountable and do their jobs. Rich Sommer of Mad Men fame is a tech wizard who help the main guys with navigating this whole new landscape of the internet and wireless software. Cary Elwes is the funniest of the bunch as a head of a company trying to do a corporate takeover but keeps getting thwarted at every turn. These guys all add the a rather good cast all the way around.
BlackBerry is a tongue in cheek look at this real story that for a time changed how we talk to each other and connect with one another. Technology was at a forefront in the 90s and early 2000s and these men helped with that. The problem is the filmmaker Matthee Johnson, who also co-stars in the movie, doesn’t take the material seriously enough. Maybe that’s the point of making fun of these types of stories. That sometimes they are ridiculous and you as a writer/director needs to put a comedic twist on them to make them entertaining. Something got lost in translation for me.
2 ½ stars
Dan Skop Allen