Status Update (2018) poster

Status Update (2018)


USA/China. 2018.


Director – Scott Speer, Screenplay – Jason Filardi, Producers – Nicolas Chartier, Jennifer Gibgot, Dominic Rustam & Adam Shankman, Photography – Russ Alsobrook, Music – Jeff Cardoni, Visual Effects – Intelligent Creatures (Supervisor – Geoff D.E. Scott), Special Effects Supervisor – Jak Osmond, Production Design – Liz Kay. Production Company – Voltage Pictures/Brightlight Pictures Voltage Pictures/Offspring Entertainment/DNA Pictures/Heyi Capital/Soundford Limited.


Ross Lynch (Kyle Moore), Dani McKensie (Olivia Holt), Harvey Guillen (Lonnie Gregory), Rob Riggle (Darryl Moore), Wendy McLenon-Cobey (Ann Moore), Joshua Adam “The Fat Jew” Ostrovsky (Bearded Guy), Courtney Eaton (Charlotte Alden), Gregg Sulkin (Derek Lowe), Markian Tarasiuk (Brian Massey), John Michael Higgins (Mr Moody), Brec Bassinger (Maxi Moore), Jay Brazeau (Grandpa Allen), Famke Janssen (Katherine Alden), Nicholas Lea (Coach Milligan), Martin Donovan (Dutch Alden), Maude Green (Cassie Watts), Austin Obiajunwa (Cooper), Andrew Herr (Oliver), Osric Chau (Xing-Fu)


Teenager Kyle Moore is not happy about having been uprooted from California to move to Connecticut following his mother’s separation from his father. Signing into his new school, he is promptly bullied by the stars of the school ice hockey team led by Derek Lowe during which his cellphone is smashed. Trying to get his phone repaired, he takes it to a kiosk in the mall run by a strange bearded guy who gives him a new phone. Kyle then finds that whatever status update he types on the new phone is something that he causes to happen in reality. By typing things, he is able to bring his father to join them, become an accomplished singer to join the school band and win the attentions of the cute Olivia Holt, and a highly skilled ice hockey player to upstage Derek in the rink. However, he comes to learn that his newfound popularity has a price.

Around the same time as Status Update, we have had assorted other genre films about magical, haunted or supernaturally empowered cellphones. There have been a number of horror uses such as Paranormal Extremes: Text Messages from the Dead (2015), Selfie from Hell (2018), Mr. Harrigan’s Phone (2022), The Demons Within (2023) and Cellphone (2024). The nearest we get to this was Hellphone (2007) where a malevolent cellphone enacted the user’s desires with increasing malicious effect. The idea of the phone that transforms the world around into whatever your status update is a cute one. However, Status Update gives it an utterly banal handling.

All that we get with the film is the Light Fantasy standard of a character getting a device that provides endless Wishes and then comic scenes where they have to deal with the literal interpretation or the unseen side effects of such. Thus we get a series of inane sequences where Ross Lynch asks for expert singing ability only to now found he can sing opera; makes himself a champion ice skater; turns Harvey Guillen into a skateboarding champ for a race through the school, while making bully Gregg Sulkin crash into a dumpster when he tries the same; where he wishes up a Ferris Wheel to impress a date; makes date Dani McKensie’s parents love him, resulting in her mother Famke Janssen (in a thoroughly embarrassing performance) throwing herself around the kitchen after him.

Status Update becomes a simple-minded fantasy of an ordinary kid attaining a device of incredible power and putting it to banal ends. It is a film that has no costs to its powers meaning that there are no stakes to what happens, merely a series of comic interactions over misinterpretations of and literal wording of the various wishes. Ross Lynch gets a stereotypical story arc – where he meets the sweet girl (Dani McKensie), is tempted by the bad girl (Courtney Eaton) and popularity whereupon he forgets his friends until he realises the error of his ways. Indeed it is exactly the type of fantasy a teenager might come up with – winning the cute girl, being popular, getting on the sports team and becoming a legend, entering the Battle of the Bands with a banal love song, outsmarting the bully and going skateboarding through the school.

Olivia Holt and Ross Lynch in Status Update (2018)
Olivia Holt and Ross Lynch

The casting is mostly made up of unknowns. The one who raises some eyebrows is seeing Harvey Guillen, subsequently Guillermo the familiar/vampire hunter on tv’s What We Do in the Shadows (2019- ). As Guillermo, Guillen seems well into his thirties while in Status Update, which was made only a year before the tv show started, he is playing a nerdy teenager, where he at least does so with an energy that he runs rings around the lead Ross Lynch.

Director Scott Speer emerged in the mid-2000s directing music video for the likes of Paula Abdul and Ashley Tisdale, before making his film debut with Step Up Revolution (2012). Following Status Update, Speer went on to make the non-genre romance Midnight Sun (2018), the quite interesting I Still See You (2018) and the afterlife film Endless (2020). Screenwriter Jason Filardi also wrote one other light fantasy film with 17 Again (2009) and was co-creator of the Stephen King adapted tv series Chapelthwaite (2021-3). The film is produced by Adam Shankman, the high-profile director of films like The Pacifier (2005) and 17 Again.

Trailer here

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