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At The Movies: ‘BlackBerry’: Reality clicks

Today, we continue our consumer products reviews of recent films.

The movie, “BlackBerry,” is about what is regarded as the first mobile smart phone that was all the rage before the iPhone.

“BlackBerry” is a nice companion piece to the movie, “Air” (2023), the Ben Affleck-directed movie in which he stars with Matt Damon in the story about the development of the Air Jordan shoe.

Air Jordan was a game-changer in the athletic sportswear business and superstar athletes’ endorsement contracts.

The BlackBerry phone, developed by Research in Motion, a Waterloo, Canada-based tech company, was a game-changer in the hand-held communication device business.

At one point, BlackBerry had a 45 percent share of the mobile phone market. That is until the Apple iPhone was introduced in 2007.

The BlackBerry QWERTY keypad was replaced by the iPhone smooth glass touchscreen. BlackBerry devices were manufactured from 1999 to 2016. As of Jan. 4, 2022, BlackBerry smartphones running BlackBerry OS are nonfunctional for calls, text messages and data.

You’ve heard the adage: “Build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”

The dictum is attributed to American essayist and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882). Its meaning is clear: To invent the next great thing, you have to have a better idea.

That goes for the use of the mouse for a personal computer, including the mouse that I am using now with the keyboard as I type this movie review. No ChatGPT here.

Essentially, the truism states, and there are exceptions to the rule, that if a company produces a better product, it will be more successful in the marketplace. Technology drives change. Paradigm shift here we go.

Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel), apparently the brains as chief engineer behind the BlackBerry, seems to have understood his place in history when he successfully texted the words that Alexander Graham Bell is purported to have said in his use of the telephone in 1876: ”Mr. Watson. Come here. I want to see you.”

The movie “Air” and “BlackBerry” tell stories of innovation, conflict and triumph of the not so distant past. “Air” took place circa 1984 in the United States. The story of “BlackBerry” begins in 1996 and continues until circa 2012. The BlackBerry parent company, Rearch In Motion, was founded in 1984 by Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin.

“BlackBerry” the movie is a nifty, intriguing, gripping drama, with lots of laugh-out-loud humor, about the development of the first textable phone.

A lot of the humor derives from the video-game obsessed employees of talented nerds (and I use the term in the positive sense), who helped to develop the BlackBerry phone, including Research In Motion co-founder Doug Fregin, played by Matt Johnson, who directs the film with a style that is jocular and irreverent while still dialing up the plot points of the fascinating story.

Matt Johnson and Matthew Miller adapted the screenplay based on the book, “Losing the Signal: The Untold Story Behind the Extraordinary Rise and Spectacular Fall of Blackberry,” by Jacquie McNish and Sean Silcoff.

“BlackBerry” has the sense of the movies, “The Social Network” (2010), about the development of Facebook, and “Steve Jobs” (2015), about the development Apple and its products, notably the iMac.

For the sake of drama (We’re not sure how much of the movie, “BlackBerry,” is true because the film announces onscreen before any scenes unfold that it’s a dramatization inspired by a true story.), there has to be a bad guy, and that would be, according to the movie, “BlackBerry,” the personage of Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton), who is portrayed as taking over the company, juicing its stock and making the BlackBerry a marketing success, especially to businessmen and busnesswomen who flaunted BlackBerrys like Rolexes and custom-tailored suits.

Howerton (TV’s “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” 2005 - 2021) is brilliantly brutal as a corporate leader who doesn’t suffer fools lightly and takes no prisoners.

Baruchel (voice, Hiccup, “How to Train Your Dragon” animated feature films) is nuanced as the quirky tech genius who develops the BlackBerry and cares for it as if it’s one of his children.

Cary Elwes has a supporting role as Yankowski, a hostile takeover corporate raider.

Also memorable: Saul Rubinek (Woodman), Michael Ironside (Purdy), Rich Sommer (Paul), SungWon Cho (Ritchie) and Michelle Giroux (Dara).

Matt Johnson (director, “Operation Avalanche,” 2016), who is a hoot and a half in the role of the hippie-ish Doug, has created a fun, giddy, engrossing tale that taps long faster than your fingers can text.

The cinematography by Jared Raab has the shaky-cam energy of raw nerves.

The music score by Jay McCarrol has the frenetic intensity of inventions being invented.

Don’t miss “BlackBerry.” You may never look at the device you hold in your hand in the same way again.


rated R (Restricted Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian. Contains some adult material. Parents are urged to learn more about the film before taking their young children with them.) for language throughout; Genre: Biography Comedy, Drama; Run time: 2 hours; Distributed by IFC Films.

Credit Readers Anonymous:

The Kinks’ song, “Waterloo Sunset” (1967), plays during the end credits roll of “BlackBerry,” appropriately enough since the story takes place in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada, where much of the film was lensed.

At The Movies:

“BlackBerry” was seen in the standard format at AMC Center Valley 16.

Theatrical Movie Domestic Box Office,

May 26-28: “The Little Mermaid” swam to No. 1 with $95.5 million in 4,320 theaters, shutting down the “Fast X” one-week run at No.1, dropping to No. 2 with $23 million in 4,088 theaters, $107.9 million, two weeks.

3. “Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 3” dropped one place, $20.8 million in 3,940 theaters, $300.2 million, four weeks. 4. “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” dropped one place, $6.4 million in 3,148 theaters, $559 million, eight weeks. 5. “The Machine,” opening, $5 million in 2,409 theaters. 6. “About My Father,” opening, $4.3 million in 2,464 theaters. 7. “Kandahar,” opening, $2.3 million in 2,105 theaters. 8. “You Hurt My Feelings,” opening, $1.3 million in 912 theaters. 9. “Evil Dead Rise” dropped four places, $1 million in 921 theaters, $66.2 million, six weeks. 10. ”Book Club: The Next Chapter” dropped six places, $869,635 in 1,339 theaters, $16 million, three weeks. 16. “BlackBerry” dropped four places, $113,009 in 123 theaters, $1.2 million, three weeks.

Movie box office information from Box Office Mojo as of May 28 is subject to change.


May 26

“The Little Mermaid,”

PG: Rob Marshall directs Halle Bailey, Jonah Hauer-King, Melissa McCarthy, Javier Bardem and Awkwafina in the live-action Adventure, Family, Fantasy film remake of the animation feature film.

“About My Father,”

PG-13: Laura Terruso directs Robert De Niro, Sebastian Maniscalco, Leslie Bibb, Kim Cattrall and David Rasche in the comedy. A man proposes to his girlfriend against the wishes of his father.

Movie opening dates information from Internet Movie Database as of May 26 is subject to change.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

CONTRIBUTED IMAGE BY IFC FILMS It's for you. From left: Jay Baruchel (Mike Lazaridis), Matt Johnson (Doug Fregin), “BlackBerry.”