In Jexi, Adam DeVine plays Phil, a peak millennial who’s been addicted to cellphones for as long as they’ve existed. His new phone’s A.I., named Jexi, becomes hyper-intelligent and wreaks havoc on his life. She starts out by bossing him around, and with her forceful guidance, he improves his life drastically. Then, fairly predictable stuff happens when she gets jealous of his new girlfriend and starts acting more like HAL than Siri.
The premise draws inevitable comparisons to Her, in which Joaquin Phoenix plays a man in a similar situation, but whereas Her is meditative and cerebral as it explores the relationship between humans and artificial intelligence, Jexi doesn’t do anything interesting with its premise besides having Jexi blow up a Tesla, shoot Phil’s money out of a nearby ATM, and control a car.
On some level, Jexi is obviously exploring how addicted we are to technology, phones most of all, but there’s something in the way it presents Phil and Jexi’s relationship as just another toxic romance that makes this message fall flat. When Phil hits the typical rom-com rock bottom of no money, no job, and no friends, he has Jexi mine the internet for Bitcoin and presents a bunch of phone cases as a gift, as if doting on a human girlfriend by giving her dresses.
There’s something blandly human about Jexi in her horniness, anger, and jealousy. The A.I. in Her surpassed humanity. Jexi is just as bad as the humans who made her.
It feels strange when Jexi pivots from a cell phone Cyrano de Bergerac to just another story about a “crazy ex-girlfriend” so mad that she’ll run somebody over with her car. On the plus side, the excellent storyline of Phil falling for a local bicycle shop owner played by Alexandra Shipp is genuinely delightful. He’s weird and awkward, unable to connect with people, and she’s so at ease and confident with herself that it feels like a match made in heaven — or at least by the most powerful dating app A.I. on the planet.
In a glorious sequence right in middle of the movie, the pair wind up at a surprise Kid Cudi concert where they somehow bluff their way backstage to smoke weed with Kudi. Everything about their developing relationship is hilarious, even her ridiculously hot former fiancé.
Shipp and DeVine’s chemistry is undeniable, and it’s a big part of what makes Jexi so entertaining. Their relationship seems unlikely, but the way they come together is so earnest and genuine you almost wish Jexi had nothing at all to do with, well, Jexi. You could still have the movie be about a man learning to overcome cell phone addiction and connect with people, and he could still have a murderous ex without trying to jam a shallow parable about tech addition in there too.
The final product we wind up with is a decently fun viewing experience, but with a premise so pointed that it misses the mark by a mile.
Jexi is now in theaters.