Even the most ridiculous movie premises need a kernel of grounding in reality to work and the supposed critique of social media, shallow celebrity and risky thrill videos, Nerve, doesn't seem interested in playing by those rules as it tells its silly story about daring to break the rules for fun, fame and profit.
Emma Roberts is a high school senior on Staten Island with Sandra Bullock's Syndrome (a condition in movies where we're supposed to believe a traditionally attractive woman can't get a guy because reasons). Dithering about whether to go an art school in California and unable to tell the hot jock she's crushing on him, she watches as her bestie, a trashy party girl stereotype, moves on him instead. Upset, she signs up to play Nerve, a game her friend has been playing and gathering followers.
Copypastaing from Wikipedia here, "The game collects her personal data and explains the three rules: all dares must be recorded on the player's phone, earned money will be revoked if a player fails or "bails" a dare, and a player must not report the game to law enforcement. In addition, the top two most-watched players will compete in a highly sought-after final round." This is Nerve's first credibility shark jump: We see her Facebook profile and other data slurped into the system which eventually is revealed to include total bank account access to deposit and drain money which is the technophobe's vision of what the Internet is like. (Since the target market for this movie is tech-savvy kids, it's as if an Amish person living in the jungles of New Guinea dreamed up this plot.)
Her first dare is to kiss a stranger at a diner for five seconds which brings her in contact with Dave Franco, the Jim Belushi of the Franco family. They quickly team up as it's clear the game is steering both of them into parallel and colliding paths. This is the next BS detail: As dares are issued and payouts remitted, who is ultimately controlling the game. While its open-source nature becomes a plot point, the anonymity of players and viewers (which becomes the lynch pin of the finale) doesn't jibe with the deliberate manipulations going on.
Also floating out there is her bestie, offended that Roberts has blasted past her in followers and ranking, risks her life on a dare and starts macking on the jock to pay her back. Because mean girl, man. If this is the commentary on fame and friendship part of the show, it's too stupid to land a punch.
Of course, it ends up in a scary showdown in a public place where somehow everyone knows to gather without the authorities catching wind. Did I mention that Roberts has a Platonic friendzoned boy pal who is a super nerd and likely to be involved in saving the day with his mad h4x skillz? Yeah, that happens.
While colorfully shot and generally entertaining in a not-hating-myself-for-watching-this way, Nerve doesn't suffer from a lack of that, but a typical lack of brains.
Score: 5/10. Catch it on cable.