Not Another Teen Movie
November 5, 2003
Starring: Chyler Leigh, Chris Evans, Jaime Pressly, Eric Christian Olsen, Mia Kirshner, Deon Richmond, Eric Jungmann, Ron Lester, Cody McMains, Sam Huntington, Joanna Garcia, Lacey Chabert, Samm Levine, Cerina Vincent, Mr. T., Ed Lauter, Randy Quaid, ,
In the last ten years the genre of the teen movie grew to become one of the biggest and financially successful in film. The fact that the subject matter for these films seemed never to vary was irrelevant. Basically the same film was being produced time and time again, and every three years or so a T.V. series loosely based on one of the more successful films would crop up. Loosely enough so as to not have to pay any royalties of course, but then the whole genre was so indistinguishable it hardly mattered.Films like American Pie, Cruel Intentions, Never Been Kissed, 10 Things I hate About You, Saving Silverman and too many more to mention were reeled out one after the other to an audience that lapped it up. Then of course cringe-worthy television would rip them off with shows like Popular. Was there no end to the evil?
No one seemed to care that the characters were all the same, and in many cases played by the same actors. Despite the glaringly obvious repetition these movies were made without a single ounce of irony of self mocking, and their loyal viewers would be oblivious to the fact they were watching the same film repeatedly.
It was about time then that a film highlighted all of this blatant unoriginality and mocked it utterly. Not Another Teen Movie, echoing all of our sentiments with its title, is actually more intelligent and humorous than the films it endeavours to ridicule.
In the true tradition of Airplane! and Naked Gun NATM took the genre apart and exposed all of those well worn clichés and over used plot developments for all to see. In a genius candid piece of dialogue The Token Black Man (his character name, no complaints please) said of the bet the jocks had just made over the girl: “I bet you lose that bet but learn a valuable lesson about life in the process”.
I’ve tried explaining this plot development to my other half for years, but she’s never quite understood it and always seems surprised when it happens.
The standard teen stereotypes are represented in the characters, with the Jocks (actually stood in a line they have the word ‘jocks’ spelled on their jackets) the nerds and the slutty girls all present. Chris Evans (not the ginger haired bloke with a taste for teenage pop stars) plays Jake Wyler, the coolest kid in school and quarter back of the football team. He makes a bet with his jock pal Austin (Eric Christian Olsen) that he can turn one of the ugliest girls in the school into the prom queen. Naturally truly ugly girls aren’t counted, but the actually obviously beautiful Janey (Chyler Leigh) sports some thick glasses and a pony tail so she’s really ugly! Jake tries to back out of the challenge claiming that her glasses and pony tail make her unworkable, but due to a brilliant makeover from his sister Janey turns into prom queen material (yes, they take off the glasses and pony tail).
This well worn cliché that T.V./film ugly and real ugly are very different is a source of great annoyance for many actors. To play the ‘ugly’ person you must actually be beautiful, but dress as though you don’t know you are.
Indeed the level of understanding of the genre in this film is very high. Jake even proclaims at the end: “Of course she’ll love me; I’m the cool kid who’s come to understand the error of his behaviour”. The comedy situations are played to greater levels than in any ‘serious’ teen movies, with Janey’s character introduction being a classic example. Just how many people can walk into a girl’s bedroom when she really doesn’t want them to?
Randy Quaid gives another typical performance as Janey’s dirt poor father (he even has the personalised number plate) with a drink problem.
There’s a lot to like about this film, and for the right reasons, which is nice to see.
This film tends to split its comedy into two sections; the first funnier section revolves around the satire on the teen genre as a whole, working on stereotypes and plot developments. The second less funny aspect features the direct film references themselves. Although referencing other movies has long since been accepted, and even regarded as cool, the direct spoofing of those films is definitely over egging the joke. The need to use familiarity of previous movies hints towards a lack of confidence in the script, which they really needn’t have had.
They should have stuck to themes rather than spoof specific movies, like Naked Gun and Airplane! as opposed to Naked Gun 33 1/3 and Hot Shots.
Of course the true irony of this movie lies in the fact that these actors, and more like them, will go on to continue making the movies that this one spoofs, but in a serious way. It’s as if they’ve accepted that the films of this genre are derivative and that the character roles are identical, yet they have no shame in doing it, nor ambition to do anything else.
Eric Christian Olsen for example is about to star in When Harry met Lloyd: Dumb and Dumberer; a cheap cash in on the Jim Carey/Jeff Daniels movie. Save us. When life imitates art anyone?
One notable guest appearance was from the ugly mudsucka himself, Mr. T. playing the mysterious yet wise janitor. Mr. T. offers words of advice to Jake on throwing a football. Despite the presence of the A-Team music, which was more than welcome, the lack of T. saying ‘throw this ball one helluva far’ can’t be forgiven. ‘One helluva far’, although never actually uttered by Mr. T. himself has become his online catch phrase in the well known Mr. T. versus cartoon strips. The absence of this line shows an unforgivable lack of knowledge on his subject matter on behalf of the director. It was still nice to see a post Cancer Mr. T back in film though.
The one thing that lets the DVD down though is the extras; they seem to be made without the overriding self knowing that powers the film. The cast, when they make their appearances in the special features are lewd, rude and just like the characters they play, but without the irony. The features don’t add anything to the experience, unless you’re one of those people that enjoyed the film and completely missed its point.
This film isn’t just for the devotees of the teen movie mind, even if you’re uninterested in the genre you’ll find this amusing for its intelligence.
The writers show an uncanny knowledge of the clichés of their genre, more than I thought they would – as these films have traditionally been so devoid of irony. At least after having watched this, you’ll never need to watch another teen movie, they’ll all have the same elements on show that were lampooned in here, but without the intelligence.