A Look Back: Not Another Teen Movie

If you’re a character in a Hollywood movie, which of the following should you never attempt?

a) Attempt to keep two appointments scheduled for the same time by being there in person.
b) Fall asleep on Christmas Eve expecting a dreamless slumber until morning (and not a visit from three spirits).
c) Engage in taunting an underdog team shortly before they compete in the championship game.
d) Make a bet to see if you can turn the plainest girl in school into a prom queen.

The answer, of course, is e) All of the above. But movie characters tend not to be all that bright – or at least not have watched most of the movies that the audience has, so they tend to get into the same dilemmas over and over. There are exceptions, though, especially in parody movies like the “Scream” franchise, where the characters are overall a savvy bunch. A second is “Not Another Teen Movie,” which takes the outline of “She’s All That,” (starring Freddie Prinze Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook), mixes in a liberal helping of teen movie tropes from “American Pie,” to “Weird Science,” a sprinkling of musical numbers, several perfect cameos, and adds plenty of humiliation for its deadpan crew. It ranks high in the overall movie character intelligent quotient, however, there are the usual adolescent pitfalls (and pratfalls) to negotiate, hence things going wrong anyway.

The movie, which starts with a scene involving masturbation, “Pretty in Pink,” and a group of little kids, zeros right in on the staler-than-a-week-old-birthday-cake trope that the “ugly” girl, who is chosen to be transformed into a swan, is usually only unattractive by Hollywood standards. Here the girl is played by Chyler Leigh (an incredibly good sport, if you ask me), who is clearly destined to be prom queen, once you remove the glasses and paint-stained overalls. The guy who makes the bet is played by Chris Evans (also a good sport) a shallow jock who is goaded into it by his equally shallow best friend (Eric Christian Olsen). But there is one person, Malik “The Token Black Guy” (Deon Richmond) who shows an impressive grasp of what will likely happen. “I’m guessing you’ll lose the bet,” he notes, “but learn valuable lessons in life.” Surprisingly, this is exactly how it plays out, but not without quite a few of the movie characters learning some lessons of their own.

There are quite a few subplots swirling around, including the following:

An attractive, fresh-faced new girl (“Pleasantville”) tries out for the cheerleading squad despite having Tourette’s. The squad’s leader is also about to realize that their routines have been directly lifted from an all African-American squad (“Bring It On”).

Chyler’s little brother (Cody McMains) is having quite a few freshman adventures, including getting detention with his pals overseen by a authoritarian principal ((“The Breakfast Club”), making a bet with his pals to lose his virginity (“American Pie”), and going on a road trip to a really rocking party (take your pick).

Chris begins the movie under a cloud because he is responsible for a mentally challenged would-be football player (“Lucas” or “Rudy”) getting badly injured in a football game. His constantly cussing coach has benched him, but he just might have a chance to turn things around. His dimbulb pal (Ron Lester) is set to start, too, but he might have the kind of luck that, well, happened also to Ron Lester in (“Varsity Blues”). Or something.

I imagine the scriptwriters had a bunch of meetings where they gravely debated how far to go, and then in the immortal words of Ferris Bueller (Matthew Broderick) decided that you can never go too far. Actually, it is possible to overdo such things as bathroom humor (which happens here), but overall, there are a lot of chuckles to be had.

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