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Electronic dance music is a metaphor for life, bro, in the earnest but inconsistent “We Are Your Friends.”

Director Max Joseph (from TV’s “Catfish”), working from a script he wrote with Meaghan Oppenheimer, isn’t out to exploit EDM subculture. He has a reverence for the music and a stylistic flare that behooves the subject. But the story overextends itself, and like a party where the DJ drops the wrong song, it peters out when it should be revving up.

Zac Efron is Cole Carter, a working-class kid from L.A.’s San Fernando Valley with a regular gig as a DJ in an L.A. club. He and his friends have big dreams but empty pockets, working crappy jobs and hustling for every dollar they earn.

One night Carter meets James Reed (Wes Bentley), a veteran DJ who takes him under his wing and helps him find his artistic voice. Carter also catches the eye of Reed’s girlfriend, Sophie (Emily Ratajkowski), whom Joseph shoots with a leering eye that turns uncomfortable.

There are several sequences where Joseph comes alive, including one scene where Carter’s PCP hallucination turns into living cartoon, and an on-screen DJ tutorial that breaks down the science of dance music (128 beats per minute is ideal, it turns out). But the movie is less effective the farther it gets from the dance floor, and a subplot about subprime mortgages feels shoehorned in from another movie.

Efron hints at layers in Carter he isn’t able to explore, and his scenes with Ratajkowski — who has the screen presence of a piece of pita bread — are lifeless. “We Are Your Friends” is a movie that explores the beat and pace of the dance floor, but its bpm flatlines.

agraham@detroitnews.com

@grahamorama

‘We Are Your Friends’

GRADE: C

Rated R: For language throughout, drug use, sexual content and some nudity

Running time: 100 minutes

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