Movie Review: “Deborah,” the digital assistant that can turn back time

“Deborah” is a somewhat deflating “reunion” comedy with a sci-fi twist. In a genre of films where “taking stock of my life” and “what might have been” are the asked and unanswered questions of one and all, “Deborah” has a gimmick that gives one the chance for a do-over.

Deborah is also the name of that gimmick. It’s a digital assistant of the Alexa/Siri mold, a sort of faceless wig manikin with a glowing light and a soothing voice that will do anything its inventor, Al (Kevin Bigley), his wife Ada (Deborah Ann Woll of “True Blood”), or any of the others they’ve invited to their striking and remote designer home for a weekend.

“One Tree Hill” alumna Sophia Bush is Nora, single and fond of her wine, if not her outspoken “Trump voter” younger brother (Michael Waller). Scott Michael Foster is outgoing, obnoxious and top-knotted Chet, who is here with the lovely and politically-correct Gabby (Ciara Renée). And Frank (Arjan Gupta) is the bookish wild card whom no one seems to know all that well.

Al and Ada are big on running Deborah through her paces, which the others join in on — “Deborah, invent a song in the style of an ’80s power ballad.”

Well, that’s novel.

But the others don’t know Deborah’s magical power, which Al and Ada use to avoid this awkward moment or that nasty red wine spill on their new white carpeting.

“Deborah, rewind 15 seconds…Deborah, rewind six minutes.”

The others are never the wiser. At first. But “residual memory” gives them a hint, and eventually the home owners fess up. Deborah can give anyone a do-over by just asking. We’re treated to the erasure of an impolitic phrase, or a character taking several cracks at coming up with the perfect come back.

As there’s an uneven number of people here and “old feelings” from high school or wherever might rear up, Deborah is going to be very busy tidying up people’s timelines.

In practice, and as relayed here, that’s pretty damned boring. Seeing a scene track through seven or more times at this point, hearing a middling line repeated, ad nauseum, doesn’t turn out to be funny or revealing as Noga Pnueli’s “Big Chill meets Back to the Future” takes a turn towards the serious.

It turns out, tempering this character’s bigotry or that one’s nihilism via a time-rewind gadget isn’t logical or the least bit interesting.

Whatever the virtues of the somewhat colorless cast, the script’s idea of wit and edge leaves them literally “stuck in a loop.”

But at least they avoided that wine stain. Me? I want that last 86 minutes back, Deborah.

Rating: TV-MA, profanity

Cast: Sophia Bush, Deborah Ann Woll, Scott Michael Foster, Kevin Bigley, Ciara Renée, Michael Waller and Arjan Gupta

Credits: Scripted and directed by Noga Pnueli. A 1091 release.

Running time: 1:26

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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