There’s not exactly a long and distinguished history of films based on mobile apps, but that didn’t dissuade the makers of “Status Update” from stepping into the cultural crater left by “The Emoji Movie” and having another try.
When his parents separate and he has to move three thousand miles away from his Californian roots to live with his grandfather in Connecticut, Kyle (Ross Lynch) struggles to settle into his new school. Well, at least until a visit to a phone repair kiosk prompted by some bullies results in Kyle getting a new phone with a mysterious Universe App on it. An App that turns status updates into reality.
It’s a neat idea to combine the intensely status-driven society of high school with the equally artificial and zealous world of social media and this wish-fulfilment fantasy has a lot of fun with it, thanks to an appealing cast and all the wholesome trendiness the focus groups would allow.
The characters and their high school setting are archly cartoonish, a stereotype box-ticking exercise and while Lynch makes for a likeable leading man to romance shy girl Dani (Olivia Holt) and as the school’s reigning mean girl Charlotte (Courtney Eaton) and king jock Derek (Gregg Sulkin) provide hissable villains it’s in its supporting characters the film finds an unexpectedly sly wit. It’s mainly through Harvey Guillen’s Lonnie Gregory, the school’s ‘loser’ and Kyle’s would-be best friend. There’s also a hilarious subplot involving Kyle’s little sister which happens almost completely in the background and is rarely remarked upon directly by other characters making it all the funnier.
The ‘grown-up’ supporting cast are no slouches either, often responsible for the film’s funnier sequences. John Michael Higgins recycles his “Pitch Perfect” schtick here as the music teacher, savagely cutting through the Disney-channel style soap-opera with some much-needed sass and cynicism while Famke Janssen has an absolute blast as a drunken and app-influences would-be ‘Mrs Robinson’.
The warmth of the performances helps the film overcome some of its shortcomings in dialogue (“I bought a new perfume. Do you want to smell me?”) and while it doesn’t challenge its young cast to move far out of their pretty people with petty problems Disney Channel/ Nickelodeon original movie comfort zone, “Status Update” puts out enough ‘posi vibes’ to end up being harmless, lightweight fun. While teenagers who are actually the age of the characters being shown on screen might find it mildly diverting at most, to the tweenagers and early teens looking up at them with aspiration and envy (like Mertmas) are going to love it. I doubt I’ll be getting away with just seeing this one once.