Let’s go back to August 2015, shall we? Apple stock was teetering at $100, the Knicks still sucked, and I was unemployed. Oh, there was no global pandemic. More importantly, on August 28, 2015, Zac Efron shouted, “Are we ever gonna be better than this?” Five years ago, We Are Your Friends entered my life.
To some, We Are Your Friends is known as the “Zac Efron DJ Movie.” To me, We Are Your Friends is the one that got away. The film had the right ingredients to become a box office hit and cult classic. First, the film had Efron, who is aa likable of A-list star as you can get. At the time, Efron had moved on from his High School Musical days entered into millennial comedies. 2014 was a huge year for Efron as the actor starred in That Awkward Moment and Neighbors with the latter being a smash hit, earning over $270 million at the box office. Both of these movies successfully capitalized on Efron’s likability, good looks, and charismatic personality.
*Zac Efron Side Rant: Why isn’t Zac Efron the biggest star on the planet? He can do it all. He can sing, dance, and charm you to death. Plus, he’s a good looking dude (no shame). Girls love him and guys want to be home. His documentary series, Down to Earth with Zac Efron, was the second most popular show on Netflix in July. People like Efron. Many of his critics will sight his acting ability as the reason for what’s holding him back. Is Efron the next Daniel Day-Lewis? Absolutely not. However, when he’s put into movies that utilize his likability and charm like Neighbors and Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates, good things happen. Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile proved he has some dramatic chops. I’ve always said that Efron is an A-list star that’s cast in the wrong movies. There’s no reason why Efron shouldn’t be the lead in a Netflix rom-com or buddy cop movie. We as a society have failed Efron. It’s time to do better.
The premise of We Are Your Friends was promising. Four friends from the San Fernando Valley trying to make it in the world isn’t an idea that reinvents the wheel, but I’m always intrigued by coming-of-age stories. However, following a DJ (Efron’s Cole Carter) as he navigates the EDM-scene in Los Angeles is an idea I haven’t’ seen before so We Are Your Friends had my interest from the start.
The film also surrounded Efron with successful character actors and cultural stars. Wes Bentley and Jon Berenthal are interesting character actors that have been in huge movies like The Wolf of Wall Street, American Beauty, Interstellar, and Ford v Ferrari. Though she had little acting experience, Emily Ratajkowski was a red-hot cultural figure thanks to appearances in the music video for “Blurred Lines” and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issues. Plus, in a film about house music, the soundtrack has a few songs that are worthy of a spot on everyone’s pregame playlist.
What I’m trying to say is We Are Your Friends had the right formula in place. It had an A-list star, a promising idea, and a supporting cast of good actors and famous figures. I rewatched We Are Your Friends a few weeks ago on Netflix. I had a blast. The first hour was enjoyable and flat out fun. Between the four friends spitting jokes at one another to Efron’s PCP trip, the film didn’t take itself too seriously, which was its strength. It was a free-flowing coming-of-age comedy that made you want to party, get drunk, and dance. I’m not alone when I say that Efron’s performance is underrated. Watching him electrify the crowd and sway Ratajkowski reminded me of all the things I love about Efron. Frankly, Efron really tried to make this work and for me, his performance is the highlight of the film. In fact, the Hollywood Reporter named Efron’s performance as one of their favorites from 2015.
Unfortunately, not everyone shares my praise for Efron’s DJ movie. To say that We Are Your Friends did not connect with audiences is an understatement. In fact, I may have been the only person in America to see it in theaters. The film had one of the worst box office openings of all time with $1.8 million. I didn’t expect the film to bomb that badly, but I wasn’t expecting a huge box office success because of its release date. For a film geared toward the millennial audience, the end of August release date was a death sentence. Why would you release a movie geared toward high school and college students on a weekend where many of them were going back to school? If a college kid has the choice between drinking on the beach or going to the movie theater, they’re going to choose the beach ten out of ten times. I have no doubt in my mind that if this film comes out in 2020, it debuts on Netflix and becomes a massive hit.
Though the release date did the film no favors, my biggest problem with We Are Your Friends is its shift in tone three-quarters of the way in. We’re all having a good time until Squirrel died. I will never understand why the film decided to kill Squirrel. There was absolutely no reason for the movie to shift from a fun-loving comedy to a serious drama. It was an unnecessary decision that killed the film’s momentum. If the film wanted to shake things up, why not just have Squirrel overdose and go to the hospital? Then, you could have had the dinner scene between Squirrel and Cole take place in a hospital room. You still get your redemption arc without using an unnecessary death to motivate Cole in the last scene.
Despite the film’s problems, I will go to bat for We Are Your Friends. Give it another try and watch it with some friends. Laugh, don’t cry and enjoy Efron in his glory.
Do you like We Are Your Friends? Leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us, @unafraidshow.
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