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Sometimes I think I should be a little bit more timely on my review schedule here at Movie Criticism for the Retarded. I mean, I guess part of the appeal of doing my own thing with this site and doing more for personal enjoyment and not being employed by some media conglomerate is that I get to make my own rules and can just review any old movie any old time I want to. But while that works when I toss out my musings on some timeless cult classic, sometimes I just wonder how relevant I seem talking about a fairly-well-forgotten spoof flick that came out seventeen months ago. But for some reason, while trekking out to the local Bl*ckB*ster last weekend in my quest to rent DAYS OF THUNDER, I ran across this title and it piqued my curiosity. I'm not exactly sure why, but I made a decision to spend my hard-earned money on it. Perhaps I wasn't in the right state of mind. I mean, I was kind of out of sorts at the time having walked in to the store to find an old man laying on the ground near the entrance talking to himself with a urine stain in his pants (honest to God truth) while being absolutely ignored by everyone in the store. So perhaps that trauma had my mind in a strange place that night. God only knows. Anyway, after holding on to it for a week or so, I popped it into the old DVD player this Saturday night and soaked in YET ANOTHER SPOOF MOVIE. Or, I think that was the title. Might as well have been, anyway.
Now, for a little confession. Yes, you'll get these things out of me every now and again, regardless of whether or not you care. Y'see, about three and a half years ago I got on a teen movie kick. I'm guessing it was a sick fascination or some form of masochism or some kind of escape mechanism in response to the dull relationship I was in at the time, but I was addicted to the genre. Within the course of just a few weeks, I pretty much racked up on the entire collection of requisite films, ranging from the marginally amusing to the gouge-your-eyeballs-out bad. SHE'S ALL THAT. 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU. CAN'T HARDLY WAIT. JAWBREAKER. The list goes on. I just couldn't get enough of 'em. I even went back and rewatched some earlier titles like EMPIRE RECORDS and CLUELESS in my quest to quench my teen movie thirst. I'm not sure what kept me so instatiable. I guess I just wasn't going to be happy until I knew in my heart that Julia Stiles and Rachel Leigh Cook were going to be appreciated and loved for who they really are.
Of course, like all other genres that matter, somebody felt they had to send it up in a spoof. Now, for me, I thought AMERICAN PIE and ROAD TRIP did a pretty good job of paying homage to the teen flick genre, but I guess that kind of simple parody might be a bit subtle for certain members of the audience. The same mentality, after all, resulted in the SCARY MOVIE franchise...a series of spoofs spoofing a series of spoofs (try saying that ten times fast). Anyway, the result of all this was NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE, a parody of teen movies covering roughly 20 years worth of source material. With that much material to work with, you've got a veritable flood of guess-the-parody jokes coming at you in full force. Unfortunately, that seems to be the drawback here.
NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE is not without its humorous moments, I'll give it that. There were times when I actually did laugh out loud. But unfortunately, the success-to-failure ratio for jokes in the film is not quite what it could have been. Part of that has to do with the fact that those jokes aren't actually jokes, but direct references to the movies that they parody. The parody genre has a tendency to do this to a degree of annoyance. In the 1996 genre spoof DON'T BE A MENACE TO SOUTH CENTRAL WHILE DRINKING YOUR JUICE IN THE HOOD there's a scene which is basically ripped directly from MENACE II SOCIETY, in which a crackhead offers a gift of fellation to a would-be supplier. The jokeless joke irritated me to no end, and unfortunately, there's a few examples of this technique employed in NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE.
The other thing that tends to be a little off with this film's choice of parodies is its inconsistensies. Sending up the teen movie genre is fine and dandy, but you gotta establish a threshold. For instance, the target audience for the Freddie Prinze, Jr./Jennifer Love Hewitt crowd isn't quite the same as the one for the Molly Ringwald/Anthony Michael Hall crowd. With the exception of goofballs like me who have seen way too many films to begin with, you're going to lose one crowd or the other. Sure, thanks to the advent of The Superstation and other cable networks milking the nostalgia nipple for all it's worth, classics like THE BREAKFAST CLUB and WEIRD SCIENCE and FERRIS BEULLER'S DAY OFF still get ample exposure, but most folks who are going to get the John Hughes jokes are in their late 20's and early 30's and more than likely ignored the teen movie resurgence of the mid to late '90s. But what really got kind of lost on me was some of the material that someone obviously lumped in to the teen genre. For instance, when Jamie Pressley's character tells her boyfriend that she's dumping him for a video camera-wielding oddball being followed around by a white plastic bag, I scratched my head in confusion until my girlfriend informed me it was an AMERICAN BEAUTY spoof. I shouldn't have missed that reference, especially when I've seen the film multiple times and regarded it as one of my favorite films of that year, but I just wasn't looking for spoofs that far removed from the genre. I did get the "I am A Golden God" reference right away, but again wondered just how ALMOST FAMOUS fit in to the teen movie genre as well.
The plot of NATM (not that this type of movie really needs one, but whatever) draws from several biggies in the genre, but most notably takes its main storyline from SHE'S ALL THAT, the film with quite possibly the worst message in the history of modern cinema (that's right, girls, nobody will like you unless you conform to the ways of everyone else in the world). Unfortunately, it not only draws from it, it practically mirrors it, down to certain scenes that are nearly identical to the original (I hung my head in shame when I realized that the reason I noticed that was because I had willingly seen SHE'S ALL THAT.) On top of that, there's a CAN'T HARDLY WAIT storyline going on in the background involving a letter written to an object of the misfit's affection. In a somewhat clever move, the role that was originally occupied by Jennifer Love Hewitt has been handed down to her fellow "Party of Five" alum Lacey Chalbert. Meanwhile, the dorky kid and his two friends make a pledge to lose their virginity a la AMERICAN PIE in a subplot that never really goes anywhere (which lands them in a funny scene where they are transplanted directly into a certain detention hall with a certain disciplinarian telling them that if they mess with the bull they'll get the horns). Oh, and the kid they got playing the Chris Klein role is spot on. Same goes for Mia Kirschner, who seems to be channeling Sarah Michelle Gellar's performance in CRUEL INTENTIONS to a tee. Again, there were parts of the movie that worked for me, but they weren't as consistent as I'd have hoped.
Other than those I've mentioned. there are tons of other parodies in the film as well, including sendups of GREASE, PRETTY IN PINK, SIXTEEN CANDLES, FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH, LUCAS, PORKY'S, RUDY, VARSITY BLUES, ROAD TRIP, AMERICAN PIE, BRING IT ON, JAWBREAKER, SAVE THE LAST DANCE, 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU, CLUELESS, and NEVER BEEN KISSED, just to name a few. Of course, the jokes are hit-and-miss, and while a lot of them play from bits that you'd probably get even without seeing the source material, some of them go even deeper to pick out pretty specific things to parody. The latter is when the movie tends to shine, when they play on the bits that are less than obvious. There's even a running gag based on the notorious "slow clap", a cliched and overused plot device that filmmakers just can't seem to resist (veteran Chris Columbus even used it in the latest HARRY POTTER picture, fercryinoutloud.)
Originally, NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE was set to be titled TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT CLUELESS ROAD TRIPS WHEN I CAN'T HARDLY WAIT TO BE KISSED, a title that surpasses SHRIEK IF YOU KNOW WHAT I DID LAST FRIDAY THE THIRTEENTH and the aformentioned DON'T BE A MENACE TO SOUTH CENTRAL WHILE DRINKING YOUR JUICE IN THE HOOD, two other genre sendups, in both word count and unicode text length. Fortunately, they opted for the much more concise and far less annoying title. As far as where this movie fits with those other sendups, it's really no better or worse. Much like I felt after seeing SCARY MOVIE or DON'T BE A MENACE..., I can't really say I was positively or negatively affected. They're just kind of there. It is a better film than NATIONAL LAMPOON'S LOADED WEAPON I or JANE AUSTEN'S MAFIA!, but that's not really saying too much, now is it?
The saving grace here is when the movie hits its stride at around the 55-minute mark, when a certain hooded figure appears on screen and becomes the mentor to our fallen football hero:
That's right, the one and only Mr. T shows up as the Wise Janitor, in a moment that lifted me from any funk I'd been in and made me realize that it's all gonna be okay. And that single moment may have redeemed the whole movie.
Okay, maybe not. but it definitely kept me from feeling this thing was a total waste of time.
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