“Emergency”, which was released on Amazon Prime on this Friday, is an interesting mix of campus comedy and social commentary. Although its overall result does not always work, the movie keeps rolling till the expected finale thanks to the game efforts from its young main cast members, and I enjoyed its several funny moments while also musing on its edgier moments involved with certain relevant social issues in the American society.
At first, the movie feels like your typical buddy comedy unfolded in one college campus. Our two young heroes are Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins) and Sean (RJ Cycler), and the movie quickly establishes the longtime relationship between these two African American lads. Although they are quite different from each other in many aspects, they have been close friends for years, and Sean is eager to have a big fun time along with Kunle during one particular evening when a number of fraternity houses in the campus are going to hold each own evening party. He has been planning to attend all these fraternity parties with Kunle, and that might bring some distinction to them later.
However, despite his willingness to join his friend in this wild campus adventure, Kunle is mostly occupied with his college study. He has actually studied in a microbiology lab in the campus, and we see him paying a lot of attention to culturing some bacteria strains. If he makes some significant progress from that, that will help him a lot when he goes to Princeton University in the next semester, though he has not told anything about that to his friend yet.
When they eventually embark on executing their plan, Kunle and Sean soon come across two different troubles. When he left his laboratory along with Sean, Kunle forgot locking up a faulty refrigerator where those bacteria cultures of his are stored, and that means, to Sean’s annoyance, he must go back to the laboratory as soon as possible.
However, that problem is nothing compared to what Kunle and Sean subsequently encounter when they go to their residence for getting their car. They find an unconscious young Caucasian girl on the floor of their living room, and their roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon), a Latino dude who is your typical nerd occupied with online video games, has no idea on who the hell this young girl is. When Kunle immediately attempts to call 911, Sean stops him for good reasons. Yes, this young girl, who is apparently quite drunk, needs to be taken to a hospital as soon as possible, but, needless to say, three colored lads with an unconscious white lass will not look that good to those police officers who will come to the scene immediately if they call 911.
In the end, Kunle and his friends decide to take the young girl to a nearby hospital or somewhere else for themselves, but, of course, things do not go that well from the very beginning. When their first plan is hilariously failed, they resort to the other plan, but, not so surprisingly, their circumstance only gets worse and worse no matter how much they try. In addition, it later turns out that there is something important revealed later from the young girl, and that leads to one of the funniest moments in the film, though, sadly, it is already shown in the trailer.
Meanwhile, we are also introduced to two Caucasian college students named Alice (Madison Thompson) and Maddie (Sabrina Carpenter), who turns out to be the young girl’s older sister. While they are enjoying themselves at a certain fraternity house, they belatedly come to realize that Maddie’s younger sister, who is supposed to be around them, is gone missing, and they understandably become quite frantic. Fortunately, they can locate the current whereabouts of Maddie’s younger sister via her smartphone, and they and a certain dude soon embark on their urgent search.
It is not much of a spoiler to tell you that these two different narratives eventually converge during the last act, but the screenplay by KD Dávila, which is developed from the 2018 short film of the same name written by him (It won the Special Jury Prize at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and the Grand Jury Prize at the 2018 SXSW, by the way), deftly goes back and forth between comedy and drama, and director Carey Williams, who made a feature film debut here after making several short films including the aforementioned one, did a competent job of maintaining enough momentum to engage us. Although the finale is rather blatant, the movie still does not lose its sense of humor, and you may smile a bit while reflecting more on its social issues.
Williams also draws solid performances from his main cast members. While RJ Cycler and Donald Elise Watkins effectively complement with each other throughout the film, Sebastian Chacon holds his own place well between them, and Maddie Nichols, Sabrina Carpenter, Madison Thompson, and Diego Abraham are also well-cast in their respective supporting roles.
In conclusion, “Emergency”, which won the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award when it was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival early in this year, may disappoint you if you expect it to be as uproarious and raunch as, say, “Superbad” (2007), but it has enough humor and gravitas at least. In short, this is one of better new films available on streaming services, and I am sure you will enjoy it if you admire its several notable seniors including “Dear White People” (2014).