Matt Johnson‘s BlackBerry (IFC Films, 5.12) gets an HE stamp of approval, but at the same time it’s not as good as that Rotten Tomatoes 96% rating would indicate.

A couple of months ago Deadline‘s Pete Hammond said it was “as triumphant and tragic as Elvis“…nope. But it’s pretty good, and sometimes better than that. It’s certainly not a burn.

It’s a business-and-nothing-but saga of the meteoric rise and tragic collapse of the Blackberry device, spanning between the mid ’90s and 2012 or thereabouts.

I was never a BlackBerry owner but I loved the look of the later models (the convergent smartphone BlackBerry wasn’t released until ’02), and I understood the love from owners that I knew.

The three main characters are co-founder Mike Lazaridis (a white-haired Jay Baruchel), Jim Balsillie (a bald-headed Glenn Howerton) and Douglas Fregin (Johnson). It’s broken up into three chapters — awkward beginnings, riding high and crash-and-burn.

I didn’t really believe the first third (too clumsy and infantile), but the downfall section is quite gripping. BlackBerry is nowhere close to The Social Network, which is heads and shoulders more believable and better made. But it feels authentic (mostly) and generally hangs together

I’m not blaming Hammond for overselling BlackBerry in his Deadline review. He was a BlackBerry guy for years and years, and was shouldering a considerable emotional investment. Understandable.

To my slight surprise I liked Howerton’s “baldy” Balsillie more than I expected to. He’s a flinty hardnose with an explosive temper, but at least he’s a realist, which is more than you can say for Lazaridis and Fregin, or at least how they’re portrayed.

During the first half Baruchel and especially Johnson WAY overplay the nerd-child behavior…these guys behave like precocious twits who are verbally clumsy and certainly inarticulate, and they don’t seem to have a semblance of a notion of how to behave in a business-world realm. Guys this infantile and retarded can’t survive — I just didn’t believe their performances.

Johnson’s performance is especially infuriating. There’s an Act One scene in which he and Baruchel are making a presentation with an easel and several posterboards, and Johnson drops the presentation cards THREE TIMES. After the third time I threw up my hands and said “fuck this guy.” And he behaves like a precocious eight-year-old autistic savant. Over and over he’ll say maybe six or seven words to Baruchel and then freeze with his mouth open….stop acting with your mouth open!! And the GAH-GAH-DUHH-DUHH expression…Jesus!

Johnson to Howerton during their first meeting: “The internet is like the force….have you seen Star Wars?” Howerton (around 32 at the time) says no. What 30 year-old hadn’t seen Star Wars by the early ’90s? Howerton was 16 or 17 when it came out. No way he hadn’t seen it!

I can’t overemphasize how much I hated Johnson’s performance. I HATE GUYS LIKE THIS…guys with their infantile nerd-genius personalities and the head bandana and terrible dress sense. There’s no way the real Doug Fregin looked or behaved like that….there’s no way he used that frozen, open-mouthed, brain-meltdown expression over and over. I never want to see Johnson in a movie ever again. I wanted to see him shot or get hit by a car.

But the film is definitely decent and sometimes better than. It certainly held my interest, although it seemed to under-dramatize the heyday period. I wanted more specifics, more details about the tech and how this and that happened. The best parts of the film are the opening and closing chapters.

It should be noted that the real Mike Lazaridis, who’s worth hundreds of millions, appears to weigh at least twice as much as Jay Baruchel.