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Reminiscent of Gus Van Sant’s 2003 black comedy, “Gerry,” this perplexing desert drama lacks the rich sense of irony that held that film together.

Both movies follow the adventures of a pair of longtime pals who get lost in the vastness of the Southwest. Forced to survive and find a way out of their predicament, they reveal their true natures. But do we care?

Matt Damon and Casey Affleck located the existential humor in the earlier film, but Josh Duhamel and Dan Fogler can’t win with the gimmicky script that drives “Scenic Route.” Apparently unsure that the premise is enough, the filmmakers start throwing plot twists around — an arranged car breakdown, a Mohawk haircut, a generic infidelity — and they never fit the narrative.

Duhamel, best-known for his role as Major Lennox in the “Transformers” franchise, seems game for anything that’s thrown at him. Either “suicidal or homicidal,” depending on his mood, his character is clearly trapped by suburbia.

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Fogler, playing the 30-something best friend who won’t allow his pal to be seduced by wife and child, is almost believable. Still, when he finds hair-chopping inspiration in Travis Bickle’s lonely soul in “Taxi Driver,” and he tells Duhamel’s character “I gave you a haircut, not a lobotomy,” the movie never quite recovers.

The finale, or rather the series of dead-ends that precede the finale (while pointlessly taking the characters away from the desert), reaches for profundity and never comes close to earning it.

John Hartl:

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