Film Reviews

American Why?

It took five men to concoct the hackneyed plot and conceive the brainless jokes that constitute Not Another Teen Movie, meaning that right now, five men in Los Angeles are still trying to wash that stink off their soft, idle hands. Five men -- five men... the very thought boggles the mind -- came up with the brilliant idea of recycling every John Hughes cliché just to poke fun at them; five men sat down with copies of every Freddie Prinze Jr. movie solely with the intention of lampooning them, as though anyone took them seriously to begin with. Five men wrote a screenplay in which a black character exists to say, repeatedly, "That is wack!"; five men hatched a scene in which Paul Gleason reprises his role, note for note, as Dick Vernon, the principal from The Breakfast Club. Then one man -- Joel Gallen, whose credits include bit parodies on MTV awards shows and a Dixie Chicks TV special -- sets out to bring those jokes, the cinematic equivalent of a fart in the face, to luminous life.

Those who subject us to such movies (parodies of parodies, which seems such an astonishingly moot point) aren't filmmakers but smug con artists who don't entertain and instead rely on our own knowledge of vapid pop culture to do the work for them. We're so familiar with these archetypes -- "The Pretty Ugly Girl," "The Popular Jock," "The Obsessed Best Friend," "The Cruelest Girl," and so forth, as laid out in the press notes -- that the filmmakers need do nothing more than drop them into high-school set pieces. The film could play without sound and we wouldn't miss a beat (or a beating).

Not Another Teen Movie, set at John Hughes High (stop, yer killin' me), is just another teen movie that swipes its central story line from, among so many others, She's All That and Whatever It Takes -- one good-looking guy (Eric Christian Olsen, generic as a bar code) bets another (Chris Evans, Freddie Prinze Jr. Jr.) that he can't transform the beautiful-behind-glasses, ugly-duckling outcast (Chyler Leigh, star of Kickboxing Academy) into prom queen -- and tries to divert your attention by upping the gross-out factor that made mad millions for the Farrellys and the American Pie franchise owners. The result is a crass, dimwitted affair that culminates in a sad cameo by Molly Ringwald. Seventeen years after she blew out her Sixteen Candles, Hughes's poster girl for the alienated teen has been rendered the pathetic punch line in a film that shits on her best work.

Not Another Teen Movie's idea of clever is just adding another pie (for Randy Quaid, the poor bastard), covering an entire classroom in diarrhea, making the foreign exchange student (Areola, "played" by Cerina Vincent) run around nude the entire time, and forcing Samm Levine (from Freaks and Geeks) to play the Jewish kid who thinks he's Japanese and utters lines like, "That make me kind of happy in pants." So, yeah, it's another teen movie, all right -- the worst one ever made, which may just be the point if it's the last one ever made.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky