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Not Another Teen Movie NOW PLAYING

Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2001

What a lousy movie. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised. Satire and parody are no longer synonymous with clever writing and biting observations. The Farrelly brothers ended all that close to ten years ago. Now, the level of ingenuity is measured by whoever can get the biggest gross-out past the censors. It doesn't have to be that way. There have been lots of hilarious parodies over the years. So I held out hope. What a sucker I was.

The makers of Not Another Teen Movie are obviously hoping to emulate the kind of success the Wayons Brothers had with their parody of teen slasher flicks, Scary Movie. So, before I went to see the show, I rented Scary to get myself in the mind-set. I remember thinking it was funny when I first saw it, but not really liking it at the same time. Now I remember why. Scary Movie is pretty clever at times, but the grotesque violence was really off-putting, making the whole experience less than it could have been. The gross-outs in Scary are bad, but they are almost a relief from the brutal murder. Rather than forewarn me to the train wreck that was to come, however, watching Scary gave me hope for Teen Movie. No murder and death, funny preview, can't miss, right? Wrong.

Not Another Teen Movie is a film with a great premise, great material to mine from, and absolutely no faith in itself. At nearly every turn I could see a real opportunity for smart humor crushed by the almost pathological need to splatter the screen with sex and filth. Now, I'm no Puritan. I don't mind sex and filth if it achieves something for the film; if it moves the story along in a meaningful way, but when it is random and meaningless, it just makes me embarrassed to be in the theater.

Teen movies are ripe for parody. There are so many stock characters and scenarios that it should be easy, would have been easy, had the writers or the producers or the director or somebody had had even an ounce of confidence. But there was none, and what's left is only a shell of what could have been a great comedy.

The set up is there. The lovely yet quirky girl who everyone inexplicably thinks is ugly is transformed into the belle of the ball on a bet between the jocks. The despotic football coach who drives his team mercilessly. The incredibly cruel girl who delights in destroying the innocent. Everything from The Breakfast Club to Varsity Blues is represented. The characters are all there, too. There's the hunky football player with the hidden heart of gold a la Freddie Prinze Jr. There's the friend who's obviously in love with the lead, though she'll never see it a la Jon Cryer. There's the overweight linebacker, the token black guy, the brain-dead cheerleading squad, etc, etc. If they had stuck to this, they'd have had it made.

But then comes the sex. It is a generally accepted point that you can't really parody a parody, so when the filmmakers decide to throw movies like American Pie and Road Trip into the mix, you are asking for trouble. Those movies are sex farces lampooning teen comedies already. So, in order to do a send up, the writers decided to outsex and outgross the originals. The result is revolting instead of funny; irritating instead of titillating. Most of the sexual language or scenes are completely pointless and without a joke to accompany them, as if the simple fact that someone is shouting out the words will be funny. It's not. It's the same with the gross-out scenes. They go over the top trying to ridicule something that's already ridiculous on it's own. I didn't need to see the English teacher who is railing on about the state of comedy today being nothing but excrement jokes, get covered in excrement. It's not funny.

I guess the worst thing about the movie is that a good bit of it is pretty funny. When our hero decides to sing a song to his girl in front of the whole school to show his love, the only song he can come up with that has her name in it is "Janie's Got A Gun." The cheerleaders who claim to have only original material don't even use their school's name in the cheer. The black guy can only utter phrases like, "That's whack!" or "Damn!" The "Janie's Got A Gun" scene was so funny that I nearly fell out of my chair, but I know I won't ever see it again. I can't even recommend that people go for the funny parts and ignore the rest. The humor is too scattered to make the rest of it worth sitting through. I can only hope that the box office will be bad enough that we aren't subjected to Yes, Another Teen Movie. Grade: D

Not Another Teen Movie is rated R for intense sexual scenes, language, and gross-out humor.



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