Allegiant, more so than its two predecessors in the Divergent franchise, is funny. Part of this is because it tries to be: There’s Miles Teller playing Peter, a big-headed jerk with a penchant for grade school-style bullying whose pratfalls are often played for laughs. There’s Ansel Elgort’s performance as Caleb, Tris’ clumsy brother. These aren’t the funniest parts, though — the funniest parts come when Allegiant isn’t trying to be.
For example, Jeff Daniels’ attempt to let out an angry, raw reaction to something not going his character’s way registers more as a punchline just waiting for its moment to shine in an Honest Trailer than a plausible show of emotion. Tris’ acts of rebellion — “You know nothing about David!” she at one point shouts at Four (Theo James) — paint her as a stereotypical teenager rather than the one-of-a-kind badass she’s supposed to be. Just because she’s special, Allegiant seems to say, doesn’t mean she can’t turn into a high school student straight out of Gossip Girl every once in a while. And it’s fine if she does, but that kind of behavior feels hilariously out of place in a movie where mistakes carry much darker consequences than not getting to sit next to Blair Waldorf on the museum steps. Here, mistakes could end in death and similarly disastrous repercussions.
Allegiant follows Tris and Four as they attempt to find the fix for their fractured Chicago, but instead discover destructive secrets guarded by a dangerous villain. The stakes are high, and the movie is at its best when that tension envelops scenes. An early escape sequence where Tris once again cements herself as a tough-as-nails heroine is genuinely thrilling, and another where Four chases a child through a wrecked village with the help of somewhat confusing technology (multiple drones are involved) is similarly nerve-wracking.
These scenes are not subtle — that’s a good thing; no one wants to watch a quiet fight — but, unfortunately, neither are the ones forgoing special effects and stunts in favor of dialogue. Toward the end, Tris delivers a heavy-handed monologue on the importance of equality that fails to resonate despite Woodley’s charming, gentle performance as a young woman doing her best to save an entire population. It’s a forced injection of topicality that doesn’t inspire the powerful effect it wants to — an apt sentiment for the film as a whole, really. Allegiant aches to be a thought-provoking, moving allegory of the current world. Instead, it’s an unwieldy two hours too unintentionally silly to validate how seriously it takes itself. C