BlackBerry: The Rise and Fall Behind the Crackberry

The cast of BLACKBERRY in Matt Johnson’s BLACKBERRY. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

BlackBerry is a dramedy that explores the rise and fall of Research In Motion, the company behind one of the world’s first smartphones.

From their outside appearances, Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton are unrecognizable as Mike Lazaridis and Jim Balsillie, respectively. However, they’re both able to disappear into the roles. Baruchel’s Lazaridis is completely gray as far as his hair goes. Meanwhile, Howerton is wearing a bald cap. But wow, the two of them are phenomenal!

The film starts out in 1996 when Mike Lazaridis (Jay Baruchel) and business partner/best friend Douglas Fregin (Matt Johnson) are working on the device. To nobody’s surprise, their company is struggling. Enter business man Jim Balsillie (Glenn Howerton) and all of a sudden, they have a nice supply of money. Because of what the Blackberry is capable of doing, anybody who is ANYBODY wants it on their person. Before you know it, they work out deals with other companies to sell their product. And then it happens…Steve Jobs introduces the first iPhone and the rest is history. It’s not long thereafter when Samsung, Motorola, and other companies would have other smartphones on the market. But while we think the iPhone is the worst of their issues, it turns out that something else would bring about their downfall…

In short, this film is about the rise and fall of the Blackberry. Remember that time when President Barack Obama would not use anything but the device? There was a while where people would refer to Blackberry as Crackberry just because of how addicting it was at the time. Look where we are now–you cannot watch a movie on the big screen without a person pulling out their phone! Hell, nobody can eat dinner anymore without their phone. Personally, I love that Shabbos gives me 25 hours without the stress of electronics. The two and three-day chagim are a different story but having 25 hours to recharge myself is particularly refreshing. But like other companies who spectacularly rise, they all must fall…

Jay Baruchel as “Mike Lazaridis” and Glenn Howerton as “Jim Balsillie” in Matt Johnson’s BlackBerry.
Jay Baruchel as “Mike Lazaridis” and Glenn Howerton as “Jim Balsillie” in Matt Johnson’s BlackBerry. Courtesy of IFC Films. An IFC Films Release.

I was last week years old when I learned that one of the film’s subjects wanted to buy an NHL team and relocate them to Canada. One doesn’t simply buy a team for the sole purposes of relocating them. They’re only relocated if their current market is no longer capable of supporting them. In any event, the NHL owners found out about it and made sure he didn’t buy the team. Not only that but they had to get security to kick him out of the building. The egos of some people just because they are rich AF! Did I mention that the Waterloo, Canada company never thought to relocate to the US? It probably would have been better on some level for business.

I watched the screener one day prior to the film opening the 2023 Chicago Critics Film Festival last Friday. As such, I didn’t get to take in the experience with a crowd. If watching by myself is any indication, BlackBerry demands to be seen with an audience. Seriously! This year is bringing us quite the trend of biopics about popular companies: Tetris, AIR, and now BlackBerry. BlackBerry is on par with Tetris when it comes to the film being a wild ride. Personally, I was expecting a dark comedy but not a wild ride on this level. A decade ago, this would have been the sort of film released by one of the major studios. These days, it feels like something that be a documentary or limited series. Apparently, a mini-series was the original idea. Whether the form will be expanded, I don’t know.

BlackBerry is a wild ride with remarkable performances from stars Jay Baruchel and Glenn Howerton.

DIRECTOR: Matt Johnson
SCREENWRITER: Matt Johnson and Matthew Miller
CAST: Jay Baruchel, Glenn Howerton, Matt Johnson, Rich Sommer, Michael Ironside, Martin Donovan, Michelle Giroux, Sungwon Cho, Mark Critch, with Saul Rubinek and Cary Elwes

IFC Films will release BlackBerry in theaters on May 12, 2023. Grade: 4/5

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Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.