To begin, let us be perfectly honest -- this little film will not earn its director a lot of fans. Certainly, the critics rushed to pooh-pooh it (sorry, couldnt resist the play on words -- see the film). Theyre calling Not Another Teen Movie contrived, crude, unimaginative, and generally unfunny. Viewers exit the theater feeling lost amidst the myriad generation-spanning references. Adolescent males may love it. But then again, they may not, as it perhaps avoids one or two opportunities to indulge in sex or toilet humor (another play on words from the film -- somebody stop me!). Nostalgia buffs will likely recoil at the crass treatment of their hallowed cinematic memories.
Who remains to enjoy the film? Me! Like the Roger Ebert of my generation, I will stand before you and trumpet this critical failure. Silly, plotless, low-brow -- true. But entertaining for one in the right mindset. I may have been the only reviewer, gentle reader, in that mindset, and I intend to share it with you!
Still, never let it be said I fear the truth. (Well, I do fear it, but never let it be said. . .) So first, the bad: In many ways, this film surpasses Scary Movie, Me Myself & Irene, American Pie, and other gross-out films of their ilk. You get an excrement storm nastier than the Golgothan in Dogma. You get implied incest and other obscure sex practices. You get a sticky, slobbery make-out scene between a young girl and an old woman -- points must go to the writers (all five of them) for turning the male girl-on-girl fantasy on its head, though. You get some odd scenes of conjoined twins. And while we must again applaud the writers for pushing the Shannon Elizabeth-esque exchange student in the Emperors-New-Clothes direction, Areola still goes over the top.
Gross-outs and shock-fests aside, the story has no plot to speak of, either. But neither does Airplane, the king of spoof films (and one I hope to never see again after seventy-eleven-jillion viewings). What could be seen as a coherent main theme comes basically from Shes All That: John Hughes High School popular boy Jake Wyler gets dumped by his girlfriend and bets his friends he can turn a loser into prom queen; the loser is dirt poor Janey Briggs, a pony-tailed, glasses-wearing self-described rebel who listens to Bikini Kill and eats tofu. The main characters are surrounded by sub plots that exist simply to spoof and provide references. The kids are all stereotypes, just like the films they parody. My favorite has to be Bruce, the white boy who wants to be Asian and talks like Long Duc Dong (anybody spot the reference? Too slow; its Seth Green, the gangsta wannabe from Can't Hardly Wait.) But while were on the negatives, I think Malik the Token Black Guy, while funny, pushes the race button a bit.
I dont want to dwell on the bad, though -- every other reviewer has done so. Let me tell you what I liked! While one of the weaknesses of the film is its episodic nature, as if the director and writers strung together a bunch of scenes to see how much they could include, that aspect brings some of the funniest scenes, too. One of the most amusing characters is Ricky (based on the immortal and ill-treated Ducky). In a scene from 10 Things I Hate About You (see what I mean about generation spanning, by the way? We have a Pretty in Pink character acting out a scene from a film two years old. How many kids today have seen the Molly Ringwald classic? And almost no one I know my age has seen 10 Things, one of the hippest and cleverest teen comedies ever. But I digress. . .). Anyway, its funny when he reads his obsessed love poem, and everyone groans Not again. Its funny when Ricky gets run over by a bunch of cyclists yelling 2 dollars! Its funny when Janey angrily throws paint all over a canvas and then we see what she has created.
But the films greatest strength is the way it puts the ALL in teen nost-AL-gia. You heard me. If you can think of it, you can find it here. Since most of you wont be seeing this picture, anyway, here is a list of as many film-references as I can recall right now.
Shall I continue? I also caught Jawbreaker, Better Off Dead, and Porkys. How about references to films that are not really teen films, like American Beauty, Almost Famous, and Rudy? Throw in an appearance by Molly Ringwald, amusing sight-gags like the name of the dining hall and the marquee on the front of the school, classic teen-movie songs redone by contemporary artists, and a come-from-nowhere musical number (Grease? West Side Story?), and we have a recipe for chuckles between the shocks and groans.
In closing, I reiterate that I like it. Not Another Teen Movie is definitely just another bad spoof. But its a genre close to my heart and a style that engages the trivia part of my brain in the same way that Austin Powers, Urban Legend, and Galaxy Quest did -- I like to try and spot the references. Give it a try -- you might enjoy it. . .