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Casual Encounters (2016)

Lionsgate
DVD Released: 6/7/2016

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 6/1/2016

There was a time when low-budget movies looked like low-budget movies. Things like shoddy camerawork, bad lighting, obvious sets, bad acting, non-sensical editing, and an unusually brief running time were the tell-tale signs of these movies. When compared to a big Hollywood film, the differences were obvious. Advancements in technology have helped to level the playing-field somewhat. With easy access to HD equipment, aspiring filmmakers can now make low-budget movies which look very slick. (However, there's not much which can be done for bad acting.) So, when we see a really crappy-looking movie these days, it really stands out. This was the first of many problems which jumped out at me concerning Casual Encounters.

As Casual Encounters opens, Justin (Taran Killam) awakens to realize that he missed an anniversary dinner with his girlfriend, Sarah (Aimee-Lynn Chadwick). To make matters worse, his alarm-clock plays a radio interview with Sarah in which she not only condemns Justin for missing the date, but admitting that she cheating on him out of anger. Justin drags himself to his job at a telephone company, where he's heckled by his boss (Mark Boone Junior) who had heard the radio show. Co-worker Sammy (David Krumholtz) convinces Justin that he needs to bounce back and try online-dating. Justin is skeptical of this, but he gives it a try and soon finds himself being confronted by sexually aggressive women. Meanwhile, Justin begins to notice Laura (Brooklyn Decker), an office-mate who may be a diamond-in-the-rough.

Most every movie genre is difficult to master, but the raunchy sex comedy may be one of the most difficult. There's Something About Mary and Kevin Smith's early films may make it look easy, but those are the rare exceptions. All of the others struggle to find a balance between lewd jokes which often involve bodily fluids and anything remotely clever or interesting. Sadly, Casual Encounters doesn't come close to finding this balance, or presenting anything which is remotely humorous. In fact, Director Zackary Adler struggles to find an even tone for the film. The movie begins innocuously enough, and the first twenty minutes or so seem benign, but then we are suddenly confronted with scenes of Killam having incredibly awkward sex. The line between cringe-worth and funny is very thin, but this movie isn't even close enough to the line to even appreciate it's skinniness (and it's worked so hard for swimsuit season).

One can't help but feel that the racy material is there to distract us from the fact that Casual Encounters has little-to-no story. Writers Sebastian J. Michaela and Erik Steinmetz have worked together to come up with a script with no original ideas, beginning with sad-sack getting dumped, moving on to embarrassing dates, and finally landing on the co-worker that the lead male had never really noticed before. Really? That old chestnut. And to add insult to injury, the movie doesn't really try to cover up Brooklyn Decker's natural looks. At the outset, she appears somewhat dowdy and unkempt, but not to the extent that people wouldn't notice her.

These issues alone would have placed Casual Encounters squarely in the "been there, done that" category, but it's the film overall presentation and appearance which makes it a complete failure. From the outset, one can't help but notice that the movie simply looks and feels cheap. The colors are washed out on the image, the locations are uninspired, the editing is incredibly choppy and some scenes feel like a rehearsal was filmed. Adler has made several feature films, but this has the feeling of a student project. No, I take that back. A student project would exhibit far more ambition than we get here. All that we get is David Arquette reading erotic novels in a back-room or something. In the end, Casual Encounters is far too casual.

Casual Encounters has a scene which will make you feel bad for being offended on DVD courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is fairly sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. As noted above, the colors are washed out in some scenes, giving the image the unfortunate look of a dupe. The depth is fine for a DVD, but the picture certainly lacks in fine detail. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. There are a few noticeable stereo effects and the music sounds fine. However, the audio is flat and won't wow audiophiles.

The Casual Encounters DVD contains only a few extras. "Under the Covers" (19 minutes) is a very odd featurette for, despite the running length, it's most made up of clips from the movie. The other footage contains comments from the cast, who discuss their characters and the story. "Single and Looking" (6 minutes) is simply a reel of dating service videos featuring characters who aren't in the movie. Most of this is glimpsed during the closing credits. The final extra is the TRAILER for the movie.

Review Copyright 2016 by Mike Long