A Look Back: Not Another Teen Movie

In order to really enjoy “Not Another Teen Movie,” you should be familiar with “She’s All That,” in which Freddie Prinze Jr. plays a popular jock who makes a bet with his cocky best friend that he can turn their high school’s homeliest girl (Rachael Leigh Cook) into the prom queen. Of course, you have only to look at the “SAT” DVD cover to realize that this transformation is successful, but that’s unnecessary if you’ve seen any teen makeover movie before. In those kinds of movies, every major flaw is fixable, including unappealing personality traits like, say, being a politically correct feminist as Cook is portrayed in “SAT.” “NATM” acknowledges that from the beginning, which, despite its overuse of gross-out gags, makes it superior to most mainstream movies with teens in them.

In addition, as you’d expect from the title, “NATM,” takes aim at just about every teen movie trope that exists – from the slow clap to the stipulation that the token black character exists solely to play the sidekick and say things like, “Shit,” and “Damn, that’s whack!” Most of the John Hughes’ oeuvre gets referenced multiple times, and other movies from “American Pie” to “Varsity Blues,” are alluded to. All the characters in “NATM” are aware that they are playing stereotypes, which makes their tongue-in-cheek references either hilarious or annoying, depending on your viewpoint.

“NATM,” begins with its heroine (Chyler Leigh) masturbating in bed the morning of her sixteenth birthday, while watching (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) “She’s All That.” After being caught by her dirt poor father (Randy Quaid), annoying little brother (Cody McManis) and various others, Chyler dons paint stained overalls and a bad attitude and heads off to school, where we meet a dizzying array of characters. Of course, Chyler is an outcast, but she does have a loyal male best friend (Eric Jungmann) who appears to be parodying “Duckie” in “Pretty In Pink.” (Hint: His idea of friendship is to spend Friday night outside her window endlessly screaming her name.) Unbeknownst to Chyler, popular jock Chris Evans has made a bet with his cocky best friend that he can transform Chyler into prom queen. Let the high jinks begin.

When we first meet him, Chris is filthy rich and worshiped by all the girls (and a few guys), but currently under a cloud because he made a major mistake in his last varsity football game. His other jock friend, played by Ron Lester (parodying his own character in “Varsity Blues”) has troubles, too, because he keeps getting concussions that go untreated. (“Oh, Coach says it’s normal to bleed from the ears.”) Chris has also been dumped by his hot girlfriend (Jaime Pressly) because she has found someone deeper: a guy carrying a camcorder and trailed by a plastic bag. Luckily, he has his sister (Mia Kirshner) to help with the makeover, although she is more interested in seducing him.

At the same time, Chris is trying to woo Chyler, multiple plots are unfolding around them, including:

1. An earnest freshman makes a vow with his two pals to lose his virginity by the end of his high school career. Obstacles include surviving detention and finding a time when the object of his affections is not entering a room in slow motion (which means everyone must shut up and freeze), so that he can finally deliver to her….a letter. (Yes, it is now somewhat dated.)

2. Three new students arrive: a sexy foreign exchange student, a perky cheerleader wannabe with Tourette’s, and a senior citizen going undercover to do a news story on today’s youth.

3. A good student whose parents have left him alone for the week is hosting what promises to be a really cool house party.

Meanwhile Randy, an alcoholic but well-meaning father, attempts to deal with his daughter’s sudden transformation, not to mention her attempts to have cozy father-daughter talks like Molly Ringwald does with her dad in “PIP.” Eventually, Chyler makes it to the prom, after all the characters have participated in a musical number, only to find that yet another dance number is unfolding (directly mocking the scene in “SAT” where everyone boogies like a professional to “Rockefeller Skank”). Of course, she finds out about the bet, is devastated and takes drastic action – heading to art school in Europe.  Meanwhile, the reformed cool guy (Chris) and the love struck best friend (Eric) must literally race against time to see which one Chyler will ultimately prefer.

This movie has everything: a raucous party, a big football game, a makeover scene, dance numbers, the prom, and of course, the scene where the hero must declare his love in front of an approving impromptu audience.  Here there’s a twist, but “NATM” opts for a happy ending, even if it salts it by having Molly Ringwald make a cameo and mutter, “Teenagers.”

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