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Geeky biopic recalls the phone that got away


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In a 12 months crowded with product biopics — there are movies about Air Jordan sneakers and Flamin’ Scorching Cheetos, of all issues — “BlackBerry” provides one thing totally different: tragedy.

Like Romeo and Juliet, the BlackBerry is doomed to die from the very begin. 

The street to wreck, although, is a geeky good time — a “Revenge of the Nerds” with out faculty intercourse jokes however with billions of {dollars} at stake and a groundbreaking invention that also impacts a lot of the planet daily.

film evaluate

Working time: 119 minutes. Rated R (language all through). In theaters.

That will be the primary smartphone, which 20 years in the past quaintly meant a cellphone that might additionally ship emails and do some rudimentary internet searching. 

In 1996, Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel), Douglas Fregin (Matthew Johnson, additionally the director) and their one-room Ontario, Canada, firm Analysis in Movement cracked the code to create the BlackBerry in opposition to all odds. 

Their genius was twofold: They found out not solely construct the cellular gadget, but additionally allow hundreds of the identical units to coexist with out crashing present mobile networks.

And, though missing the gravitas and ethical conundrums of Fb-centric “The Social Community,” Johnson’s dweebish movie turns each certainly one of these tech breakthroughs right into a stirring victory worthy of “We Are The Champions.”

The short and humorous script by Johnson and Matthew Miller flirts with condensed-true-story cliché, however largely comes off contemporary.

Loud-and-proud Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton, right) shakes up the company Research in Motion, co-founded by Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel, left)
Loud-and-proud Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton, proper) shakes up the corporate Analysis in Movement, co-founded by Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel, left)
Courtesy of IFC Movies

Jim Balsillie, CEO of Research in Motion, creators of the BlackBerry, showing off an early model of the then-revolutionary tool.
Jim Balsillie, CEO of Analysis in Movement, creators of the BlackBerry, exhibiting off an early mannequin of the then-revolutionary software.
Toronto Star by way of Getty Pictures

The corporate’s rise and comparatively speedy downfall start with the doorway of Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton), a product govt and hockey buff who joins Analysis in Movement to market their killer thought and get their funds in form. 

Balsillie is loud, brash and vulgar subsequent to meek and measured Mike, and Baruchel (who low-key has probably the most recognizable and endearing voices in Hollywood) and Howerton play off one another ideally.

So do the likable actors enjoying their Geek Squad of inventors, who’re residing out the glad campus life they by no means had, full with boisterous gags and no-work-allowed film nights. 

However as the corporate balloons — they companion with Cingular, their telephone is known as certainly one of Oprah’s Favourite Issues and PalmPilot makes an attempt a hostile takeover — the group’s founding pleasure and far of the creativity exit the window in favor of determined grabs at revenue. 

Steve Jobs' first iPhone keynote speech shocks the BlackBerry creators.
Steve Jobs’ first iPhone keynote speech shocks the BlackBerry creators.
Courtesy of IFC Movies

After they watch Steve Jobs give his Apple keynote speech asserting the iPhone — with its touchscreen, music and full web browser — the look on their faces in Johnson’s muted-palate film says all of it: We’re screwed.

And it’s at that time, as unhappy inevitability sinks in, that the movie’s initially cracking power slips. 

Revelations of mismanaged funds and authorized improprieties are much less involving or frankly attention-grabbing than the success story that got here earlier than them. Mike and Jim turn into distant, and we miss their humorous “Odd Couple” sparring. 

However that, in a method, mimics the crash-and-burn arc of the BlackBerry itself: from almost half of cellphone customers proudly owning one within the aughts to precisely zero immediately.

For by no means was a narrative of extra woe.


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