For the life of me, I’ll never be able to figure out the glut of product biographies being unleashed on audiences. We can’t be so bereft of material that we have to have a biographical film about the development of a hand held computer. I mean, the Blackberry was important and granted, a documentary would be great, but “Blackberry” on its own is just another stale drama that tries to enhance the mundanity of the development of Blackberry and transform it in to this “Wall Street” meets Aaron Sorkin suspense film about capitalism and the cut throat industries that battled to get ahead in the tech market.
Based on the 2015 book “Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of BlackBerry,” Jay Baruchel plays BlackBerry’s shy, soft spoken, but innovative co-founder Mike Lazaridis. Johnson, plays Mike’s goofball partner Doug Fregin, who is too much of a slacker to realize his company and once best friend are transforming in to another conglomerate under the rule of new CEO Jim Balsillie. Balsillie is desperate to turn his new venture in to a success, and as “Blackberry” dominates the tech world, Mike struggles to keep up with potential competitors.
For what it’s worth (co-star) Matthew Johnson’s direction of “Blackberry” is very good and I think Glenn Howerton absolutely carries “Blackberry” right through the very end. But as for the whole idea of “Blackberry,” it remains a movie that enters on the pretense of taking us behind the genius of this once revolutionary device, and transforms in to this pretty tepid character study about greed, and over ambition and the gray morality of success. How did they come to adopt the name “Blackberry,” by the way? It’s never clarified for us. I found it all fairly by the book and rote most of the time, as director Johnson is by no means a fan of subtlety. Even the bad wigs are all so loud and present.
Even though the movie does admit in the opening that this is a mostly dramatized version of the rise and fall of Blackberry, the whole dramatic dynamic that ensues is gains momentum midway but takes a long time to build, and then deflates in the finale. It tries its best to squeeze in absurdist comedy and by all estimates it’s classified a comedy, but so much of that is abandoned after the first half hour in exchange of a more stern exploration of this evolution of the Blackberry company, and the illegal games that Jim Balsillie played in order to come out on top, and feed his own craving for status and power. Howerton is the only reason to see “Blackberry”; beyond that it’s by the numbers, and its sense of self importance renders it all kind of silly.