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`Full of It' sticks to teen formula

New kid in school. Can't fit in. Beautiful girl. Life lessons. We've seen it all before.

March 02, 2007|Michael Ordona | Special to The Times

"Full of It," a new teen fantasy movie, is indeed loaded -- with things you've seen many times before.

Brace yourself for plot device deja vu: The new kid struggles to find his way in a school where the cool kids hate him. In his desperate quest to become popular and score with the hot but mean girl, he liberally lies, gaining the world but losing his -- whatever. Believe it or not, he ignores the great girl who's perfect for him until he realizes that just being yourself solves everything.

Add to this utterly ordinary setup the gag that the outrageous stories young Sam (Ryan Pinkston, TV's "Quintuplets") tells start coming true, and you've got something cobbled together from a thousand teen flicks, "Big" and "It's a Wonderful Life."

It's exactly the kind of widget that plops out of the vending machine every few months. The genre usually gets the super-slick, smash-cutting, roving-camera treatment, but "Full of It" feels oddly low key despite the fantastical elements. Some pre-fab parts don't quite fit together.

Christian Charles ("Comedian") directs the adults to outsized performances, perhaps with pseudo-impressionistic aims, and the teens (or 20-year-olds impersonating teens) to relatively naturalistic portrayals. The pacing and editing are leisurely to a fault.

The film isn't entirely empty; there are funny moments and the veteran supporting players shamelessly cart away their scenes. Craig Kilborn amuses as the wrecked guidance counselor who starts Sam on his mendacious spree by advising him that "Winners always lie and liars always win." Teri Polo ("Meet the Parents") is entertaining as the teacher every boy has a crush on, who is driven out of her gourd with lust by Sam's magical falsehoods.

The diminutive Pinkston is likable and adept at physical comedy but tends to overplay the lying. Kate Mara ("We Are Marshall") is well cast as the obviously-right-for-Sam girl, but the eternal question remains: Why would she be interested in this insecure, dishonest, disloyal construct of a kid?

There are no real consequences for Sam's prevarications; in fact, he gets to be BMOC for a while and also gets the girl. How much more interesting would the film have been if something unexpected happened -- say, something awful and dark resulted from all the fun he had? But that would transcend the genre.

Whatever this movie's "Full" of, it's not at all fresh.

"Full of It." MPAA rating: PG-13 for sexual content, drug references, teen partying and crude humor. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes. In general release.

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