Film and TV

American Why

It took five men to concoct the hackneyed plot and conceive the brainless jokes that constitute Not Another Teen Movie, meaning there are five men in Los Angeles right now still trying to wash that stink off their soft, idle hands. Five men -- the very thought boggles the mind -- came up with the brilliant idea of recycling every John Hughes cliche, just to poke fun at them; five men sat down with copies of every Freddie Prinze Jr. movie with the sole intention of lampooning them, as though anyone took them seriously to begin with. Five men wrote a screenplay in which a black character exists just to say, repeatedly, "That is whack!" Five men hatched a scene in which Paul Gleason reprises his role, note for note, as Dick Vernon, the principal from The Breakfast Club, and five men no doubt pissed themselves silly at the notion of a beautiful young woman droolingly tongue-kissing a haggard old lady. Then one man -- Joel Gallen, whose credits include bit parodies on MTV award shows and a Dixie Chicks TV special -- set out to bring those jokes, the cinematic equivalent of a fart in the face, to luminous life. And you thought you had to be clever, or at least subliterate (and we're not looking at you, Kevin Smith), to make movies. Apparently you don't even have to be breathing (through your nostrils, anyway).

Making fun of the already frivolous seems a particularly profligate pastime, but it's surely a profitable one; look, only if you must, at Scary Movie, which made considerable green by proving there are indeed still people awed by light-projected moving pictures. Those who subject us to such movies (parodies of parodies, which seems such an astonishingly moot point) aren't filmmakers; they're smug con artists who don't entertain and instead rely on our own knowledge of vapid pop culture to do the work for them. We're so familiar with these archetypes -- "The Pretty Ugly Girl," "The Popular Jock," "The Obsessed Best Friend," "The Cruelest Girl" and so forth, as laid out in the press notes -- that the writers need do nothing more than drop them into high school set pieces. The film could play without sound and we wouldn't miss a beat (or a beating).

Not Another Teen Movie, set at John Hughes High (stop, yer killin' me), is just another teen movie that swipes its central story line from, among so many others, She's All That and Whatever It Takes: One good-looking guy (Eric Christian Olsen, generic as a bar code) bets another (Chris Evans, Freddie Prinze Jr.) he can't transform the beautiful-behind-glasses ugly-duckling outcast (Chyler Leigh, star of Kickboxing Academy) into a prom queen -- and tries to divert your attention by upping the gross-out factor that made mad millions for the Farrellys and the American Pie franchise owners. Throw in put-down sendups of everything from Never Been Kissed to American Beauty to American Pie to Fast Times at Ridgemont High to, well, damned near any movie showing on TNT right now, and the result is a crass, dim-witted affair that culminates in a sad Molly Ringwald cameo. Seventeen years after she blew out her Sixteen Candles, Hughes's poster girl for the alienated teen has been rendered a pathetic punchline in a film that shits on her best work.

The teen-film genre has already been reduced to parody: Whatever It Takes rehashed She's All That's plot (and stars, more or less) and commingled it with Valley Girl and It's a Wonderful Life. And what was American Pie if not the Hughes oeuvre baked into a fuckable crust? Not Another Teen Movie's idea of clever is just adding another pie (for Randy Quaid, the poor bastard), covering an entire classroom in diarrhea, making the Foreign Exchange Student (Areola, "played" by Cerina Vincent) run around nude the entire time and forcing Samm Levine (from Freaks and Geeks) to play the Jewish kid who thinks he's Japanese and utters lines like, "That make me kind of happy in pants." So, yeah, it's another teen movie, all right -- the worst one ever made. Which may just be the point, as long as it's the last one ever made.