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With: Donald Elise Watkins, RJ Cyler, Sebastian Chacon, Sabrina Carpenter, Maddie Nichols, Madison Thompson, Diego Abraham, Summer Madison, Gillian Rabin
Written by: K.D. Dávila
Directed by: Carey Williams
MPAA Rating: R for pervasive language, drug use and some sexual references
Running Time: 105
Date: 05/20/2022

Emergency (2022)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Heart of the Matter

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Cut from the Superbad cloth, this funny, touching comedy-drama starts confidently with some big laughs before it veers cannily into a commentary on racial identity, yet still maintaining balance.

Two college seniors, Sean (RJ Cyler) and Kunle (Donald Elise Watkins), prepare for a "legendary tour," which entails hitting seven different parties in one night; they hope to be the first Black students to complete this task. Sean is a constantly-vaping, good-time guy, while his best friend Kunle is more studious, concerned about the welfare of his biology cultures, which must be kept at a certain temperature.

Their evening gets off to a rocky start, however, when they find a passed-out drunk white girl, Emma (Maddie Nichols), on their living room floor, with no idea of how she got there. If they call the police, they and their Latin roommate Carlos (Sebastian Chacon) could be arrested, so they attempt to help her themselves. What starts off as a quick task eventually turns into a night-long odyssey, filled with strange twists.

Emergency starts well, with the off-kilter relationship between Kunle and Sean; they may seem like a mismatch, but their strong chemistry comes through. They thrive in each other's company, and their differences create a hilarious friction that keeps them both on their toes. Carlos — he's the "McLovin" of this movie — adds another level. He's a ridiculous goofball, someone that the guys don't want around for fear of making them look bad, but his heart is in the right place, and he becomes a necessary cog in this machine.

As the movie goes on, it becomes clearer and clearer that the source of the conflict is all about race. The friends could very easily have called the police and gone to their parties, but the risk of their own arrests — or being shot — is too high for comfort. It's all about perception; every situation they get into, no matter how well-intentioned or ill-conceived, looks bad from a white, racist point of view.

Yet Emergency — which was adapted by writer K.D. Dávila and director Carey Williams from their 2018 short film — continues to play with new levels of commentary, such as the white couple who threaten to call the police on the hapless characters of color, just before a "Black Lives Matter" sign on their lawn is revealed. But, like Superbad, this movie eventually makes you care, and rewards you for it.

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