"Not Another Teen Movie" threatened to be a mindless farce sending up the genre, a harmless winter break novelty to entertain those with too many hormones for "Harry Potter" yet too immature for "Spy Game."
"Not Another Teen Movie" is a 90-minute exercise in redefining the word "gratuitous."
The logic seems to go something like this: If toilet humor is funny, then 100 gallons of sewage will be really funny. (This example is not a hypothetical one.) This feature directing debut from former MTV VP Joel Gallen reaches broadly and deeply into the teen movie genre, from "Porky's" to "Cruel Intentions," with particular emphasis on John Hughes' 1980s oeuvre. The script shows that even if you hire five screenwriters, they all, eventually, will stoop to jokes about bodily fluids.
Most of the characters are a composite of movie stereotypes---dumb jocks, mean rich kids, the sexy foreign exchange student---while others are simply a low-grade copy from other films.
The popular boy, Jake (Chris Evans) makes a bet that he can turn any girl into prom queen, even poor-as-dirt Janey Briggs (Chyler Leigh), who, we are reminded several times, has a ponytail and glasses and wears paint-covered overalls.
Meanwhile, Janey's little brother, Mitch (Cody McMains) and his posse of freshman losers vow to lose their virginity. The movie moves through all the necessary plot points: the big football game, the big high school party and the big dance. That the prom comes, without comment, during football season is one of too few subtleties.
Gallen, whose previous directing work is limited to MTV Movie Awards shorts such as "Being Tom Cruise" and "Sex and the Matrix," knows what to parody--the embarrassing masturbation scene, the actors long past puberty, teens who behave like cats in heat. Yet his film doesn't quite know what to do with them. The jokes are overlong and lean heavily on the most obvious and most raunchy.
When satire is too hard, "Not Another Teen Movie" resorts to mimicry. And when that doesn't work, it pulls out something gross. A short monologue by oversexed Catherine (Mia Kirshner) contains the kind of graphic talk people usually dial 900 numbers to hear.
The problem with parodying comedies is that it requires writing that is smarter, or at least as smart, as the source material. "Not Another Teen Movie" makes John Hughes look like Oscar Wilde. It makes "American Pie" seem quaint.
That's not to say there aren't funny moments here. There are. Two, maybe three of them. But unless you're a hearty 14-year-old--who of course is not supposed to be seeing this R-rated movie--it's hardly worth fishing them out of the potty humor and repulsive sex talk.
The unsung hero of the film, it seems, is casting director Joseph Middleton, who assembled young people who, if they didn't appear in the wave of '90s teen movies, might as well have. The Baldwin-ish Chris Evans and Leigh have a certain charm that on occasion rises above the material and suggests that this may be the starting point, not the high point, of their careers. Randy Quaid, however, leaves one wondering what sins he committed in some past life to deserve a role that has him getting intimate with pies---without even getting a laugh out of it.
Finally, for Congress or anyone else investigating the efficacy of MPAA ratings these days, "Not Another Teen Movie" should be exhibit A.
MPAA rating: R, for strong, crude sexual content and humor, language and some drug content. Times guidelines: gross and grosser.
'Not Another Teen Movie'
Chyler Leigh...Janey Briggs
Chris Evans...Jake Wyler
Eric Christian Olsen...Austin
Presented by Columbia Pictures. An Original Film production. Produced by Neal H. Moritz. Director Joel Gallen. Executive producers Brad Luff and Michael Rachmil. Written by Michael G. Bender & Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson and Phil Beauman & Buddy Johnson. Director of photography Reynaldo Villalobos. Production designer Joseph T. Garrity. Film editor Steve Welch. Costume designer Florence-Isabelle Megginson. Casting by Joseph Middleton. Music by Theodore Shapiro. Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
In general release.