Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Teen Tropes

Not Another Teen Movie
Director: Joel Gallen
Cast: Chyler Leigh, Chris Evans, Jaime Pressley, Randy Quaid
Released: December 14, 2001

You might find Not Another Teen Movie amusing if you are familiar with '80s and '90s teen movies. I saw this movie about a year after its release and while I remembered most of the '90s teen movie references, I did not remember there being any '80s references, although I did remember that Molly Ringwald makes a cameo toward the end, so that should have been my first clue! This may be because I've only seen two of the '80s movies parodied in this: The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off (the latter is probably one of the more funnier scenes of the movie as it has the parents of "Ferris" telling their son not to have a party while they're gone and people are literally bringing in speakers and kegs as they tell him this). On the other hand, I've seen all of the '90s teen movies that are spoofed in this two or more times except for Varsity Blues which I've only seen once. (Isn't that the movie Michael Scott shows to his employees in The Office when they have a movie day?) I do love that the characters in this movie attend John Hughes High School. That was a nice touch.

While many teen movies are made fun of (and, for some reason, American Beauty is part of this. I know there are teens in it, but that doesn't make it a teen movie. They make fun of the weird neighbor kid and his fascination with the plastic bag.), She's All That gets the most ribbing which is more than fine with me, because, my God, that movie is TERRIBLE! And this movie shows just how ridiculous it is. Seriously, go back and try to watch that movie. It is unwatchable.

Our main character, Janey Briggs, is played by Chyler Leigh (she played Lexie on Grey's Anatomy). She is 90% Laney Boggs from She's All That (look at her name and she follows most of Laney's storyline) and 10% Kat Stratford from 10 Things I Hate About You (her father (Randy Quaid) won't let her younger brother date until she does). And I guess she's also whichever Molly Ringwald character has a best friend who's in love with her (I really need to brush up on my '80s teen comedies!) as she has a best friend named Ricky who literally tells Janey that he's in love with her every chance he gets (not to mention he reads a poem aloud in class titled "10 Things I Love About Janey", heh).

It's really weird seeing Chris Evans (easily the most well-known actor in this) in this because I'm used to seeing him in a)big blockbusters or b) more serious movies and not stupid stuff like this. While there are some funny and clever elements to this movie, I gotta say the bad outweighs the good and there's a lot of cringeworthy moments in this movie. I especially felt bad for him during theVarsity Blues spoof. But this was his first movie and I guess you gotta start somewhere when you're not yet an established actor. I also felt bad for the girl playing the foreign exchange student, but we'll get to her later. Chyler Leigh also has a really embarrassing first scene (think American Pie). I suppose there'a a reason why this is the first movie (or one of the first) for many of the main actors!

Evans plays Jake who is modeled after Freddie Prinze Jr.'s She's All That character. 
His girlfriend, Priscilla (Jaime Pressley) has broken up with him, and,  just like in She's All That, he makes a bet with his friends to find the most unattainable and unattractive girl at their school to transfer into the Prom Queen. This scene is quite humorous as he's suggesting truly hideous girls to his friends for them to choose for him such as a hunchbacked girl with warts all over her face, conjoined twins, and an albino girl with red demon eyes, but when they suggest Janey Briggs he is so repulsed by the very idea of trying to make her into someone popular and that it will never work. Janey is deemed ugly because she has glasses, wears her hair in a ponytail, and has paint-splattered overalls. Despite all these terrible aspects of her physical appearance, she is obviously a very attractive girl (just like Rachael Leigh Cook is in She's All That) and I do give the movie props for pointing out just how stupid it is.

Jake does whatever he can to get Janey's attention and this includes serenading her (obviously taken from 10 Things) and he picks Aerosmith's "Janie's Got a Gun" since her name is in the title and when he starts singing it in front of her and the entire school, all the students start freaking out and Janie is tackled by the campus security. Yeah, something tells me they would never be able to get away with that scene in today's world!

Of course, Janey will get a makeover courtesy of Chris's sister, Catherine where she literally takes Janey's glasses off and lets her hair down and she is automatically "hot". Catherine is modeled after Sarah Michelle Gellar's character in Cruel Intentions (they even share the same name, just spelled differently) and she has some weird attraction to her brother. When she's trying to make out with him and he tells her they can't do that because they're related, she replies, "Only by blood." Of course in the movie it's spoofing, she responds, "Only by marriage" since they're step-siblings. Still gross in both scenarios. There's also this really weird scene where, after Jake's dad learns the his girlfriend broke up with him, offers to let his own mother "comfort" him if you know what I mean. Ewww...and what movie is that spoofing from? I mean, I at least get the Cruel Intentions joke, but what teen movie has a mother being attracted to her own son? Because I've never seen that one, luckily!

Almost Famous is another non-teen movie they spoof when Janey jumps off a roof and into a pool at a party (again, I know there are teens in Almost Famous, but that doesn't mean it's a teen movie!) and when she climbs out of the pool, SOAKING wet, Priscilla pours water on her and she runs away, crying. This is similar to a scene in She's All That when Freddie's ex-girlfriend pours her drink on Laney and she runs away, crying.

One of the worst scenes is when Janey's younger brother and his two friends are crawling in the vents to have a peek at two girls taking a shower together (and, of course, they are lathering each other up) in the girl's locker room. They also spy on a girl using the toilet and let's just say it's not as erotic as the two girls sudsing each other up. Now while this is going on, it cuts back to an English class where the teacher is about to read a poem but when a student makes a fart noise with his hand and everyone laughs, the teacher makes the comment, "Is this what your generation considers humor?" He continues to go on about what real comedy is and how this generation only seems to find toilet humor funny. I don't know what's wrong with the girl, but she has a very bad case of diarrhea; so bad that both she and the toilet end up falling through the floor and landing in the classroom where all the excrements land on the teacher (and there are a lot!) I do get the joke of this scene, but it was really gross (I, for one, do not find toilet humor to be funny, especially when it's that disgusting) and if this is a spoof from a teen movie, I don't think I've ever seen it. I know there are sometimes gross scenes in those movies (like that one from She's All That - if you know it, you know it; if you don't, I'm not going to make you lose your appetite to tell you. It wasn't as visually disgusting as this one, but it was still really gross and unnecessary.) The logistics of this scene doesn't make any sense. I have never heard of/seen a gym on the second floor of any school. Gyms are always on the ground floor! I felt bad for the girl on the toilet. The actress, I mean. I don't know who she is or if she went on to have some sort of career. I don't see anyone credited as "Girl on Toilet" in the credits so I can't look her up. Can you imagine taking this role and having your friends and family watch it? You could not pay me enough money to do that. I still have some dignity! Of course, maybe she took the role and didn't tell anyone and persuaded everyone she knew that she heard this movie was terrible and not to see it!

But she's a non-character and her role is a small one. The girl who plays the foreign exchange student (who is based off of the overly-sexualized Nadia from American Pie) is in a few scenes and she is from some random country because her accent seems to change in every scene. She is also naked in every single scene. At first, I thought she was just topless because we first see her sitting down, but no, she is completely nude. When she is standing, they do have certain object strategically placed in front of her so not everything is showing. I don't know the actress, but she's gone on to have a pretty good steady career (so maybe that helped her!) and I know it was her choice to be in the movie. I don't have a problem with nudity in movies, but this was a little much and they just wanted it in there (along with the toilet scene) so it could be as raunchy and gratuitous as they could make it. I feel like the movie goes for shock value more than actual humor.

Since Molly Ringwald represents the '80s teen movie cameo, they needed someone to represent the cameo for the '90s teen movies and that person would be...Melissa Joan Hart. Now, she's more affiliated with '90s teen TV than movies as the only movie I can think of her in is Drive Me Crazy, which might be just as terrible as She's All That. I don't think they even made fun of it in this movie, so all the more puzzling why she's even in this. She makes her appearance during the pool party scene when a kid starts slow clapping after Janey runs away and tells him that he can't start a slow clap at any moment: it has to be the right moment and he'll know when he sees it. (Which will happen when our two leads realize they have feelings for each other). Is the slow clap a trope in teen movies because I can't think of any examples. Unless it was in Drive Me Crazy and I don't remember (I will admit that movie didn't always hold my attention!) I know the slow clap is a thing in inspirational sports movies like Cool Runnings when they crash, but then they are able to get up and walk to the finish line carrying the bobsled.

When I reviewed Independence Day, I said if I could make my own edited version with just the really good scenes, that's what I would recommend to people. It's the same with this movie. There are some really funny and clever things in this movie and if I could just make an edited version with the truly great scenes from this movie, that's what I would do and leave all the other crap (literally, in some scenes!) behind.

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