Lucy Hutton (Lucy HaleRiverdale) has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired Joshua Templeman (Austin StowellCatch-22). And the feeling is mutual.

Trapped in a shared office together, they play this everyday game of upping one another. When a new promotion could be anyone’s to take, Lucy and Joshua decide that if she wins this game, she’ll become his boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. But why is Lucy having sex dreams about her nemesis and trying to manipulate him by dressing differently? Their chemistry changes after a twist encounter in the office elevator…

Based on the popular novel by Sally Thorne, The Hating Game has all the elements of a typical romcom. But that’s where this movie falls short. The lack of ingenuity, and the overall predictability is a problem many romcoms struggle with. Early on we can already guess where Lucy & Joshua’s story will go, a guessing game the movie eventually doesn’t recover from. Why spend a 98 minutes watching the exact same formula we’ve seen before?

Well… Lucy Hale. She’s the beating heart of The Hating Game, and knows how to sell the part. A versatile actor like her doesn’t need a strong script to excel in what she does, but it would help her co-stars to level up. The problem is, the rest of the cast just isn’t as interesting, which makes the entirety of the film pretty one note. Which is interesting, because on screen love interest Stowell and Hale have starred in Fantasy Island together, so you’d expect their chemistry to be a tad bit stronger than what’s being showcased here. There’s nothing else that elevates the material, while the lack of catchy tunes and interesting production design don’t give the viewers anything else to lose themselves in when the story stagnates early on.

The Hating Game is a familiarly underwhelming love story that has a hard time making you swoon.

Rating: 1.5 out of 5.

Screening at Hoyts & other locations from January 27

Reviewed January 24, 2022 (screener provided by Rialto Distribution). Rating: M. Running time: 98 min. 

PRODUCTION: A Rialto Distribution release of a BCDF Pictures & Convergent Media. production. Producers: Brice Dal Farra, Claude Dal Farra, Santosh Govindaraju, Brian Keady & Dan Reardon. Executive producers: David Garrett, Lucy Hale, Monte Lipman, David Mepham, Dana Sano, Austin Stowell & Grant Thompson.

CREW: Director: Peter Hutchings. Writing: Christina Mengert (based on the novel by Sally Thorne). Editing: Jason Nicholson. Cinematography: Noah Greenberg. Music: Spencer David Hutchings.

CAST: Lucy Hale, Austin Stowell, Damon Daunno, Sakina Jaffrey, Corbin Bernsen, Yasha Jackson, Sean Cullen, Shona Tucker, Brock Yurich & Robby Johnson.

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