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Forget Pokémon—In Nerve Gamers Play With Real People

Hollywood is working overtime to make Dave Franco happen. The actor’s had three movies come out in 2016, including Now You See Me 2, Neighbors 2, and this latest one, Nerve. In it, Franco plays a vaguely mysterious, motorcycle-riding stranger who hooks up with Emma Roberts’ character at a diner, where she’s completing a dare as part of an online game called Nerve.

One Roy Orbison sing-a-long later, the two are teamed up inside a game where Players accept IRL dares and compete for cash while Watchers drive the action from the safety and anonymity of their smartphones. Roberts’ character, a repressed teenager who can’t even tell her mother she wants to move across the country to go to the prestigious arts school she’s been accepted into, has been shamed into playing the game by a far more daring friend. Quickly, they become each other’s biggest competition.

But it’s not all about who’s willing to run around Bergdorf’s in their underwear or negotiate a ladder rigged up across the airshaft between two Manhattan apartments in high heels. A dude died playing Nerve last year, guys (cue: angsty, high-pitched teenage drama). And the players involved are still paying for it.

When Jeanne Ryan’s YA thriller of the same name came out in 2012, critics made the obvious comparisons to Hunger Games (female teen protagonist, first-person narration, mildly futuristic slant), but when it comes to Paranormal Activity 3/Catfish directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman’s movie adaptation, the similarities are token. Roberts is no Jennifer Lawrence not here anyway, but check her out in The Blackcoat’s Daughter with Kiernan Shipka) and the stakes are lower than in the kind of games Katniss plays.

What the movie lacks in tension (with the exception of that ladder scene) it makes up for in humour, and occasionally succeeds. When Roberts is dared to try on a designer dress in an upscale department store, the snobby clerk tells her that “It’s very expensive.” Funny, if you remember her aunt’s Rodeo Drive shopping trip in Pretty Woman. Most of the good lines are given to Miles Heizer in the role of the adorable teen boy that follows Roberts’ character around, carrying his unrequited love in his knapsack. Only an idiot would choose Franco over him, but this is a movie about people in high school, so.

Nerve is out July 27. We totally dare you to go see it.

INNERSPACE CLIPS