Teen movies rule.
Actually, they're often pretty crappy. But when they're good, and you're in the right mood, they can really hit the spot. On Saturday, to celebrate having sent my book to the printer, and to reinaugurate this Website, my friend Amy L. and I spent the afternoon planted in the sticky seats at the 68th Street Sonyplex. In a feat of reverse engineering, we acted like adults gone wild and absorbed both Mean Girls and 13 Going on 30.
Mean Girls, our first flick, surprised us by being better than we'd expected. Though witty and winningly acted, the story requires practically no explanation beyond its title: It's about high school girls who are mean to each other. Incidentally, all the people in the movie breathe, too.
Although the film flags in the middle (it's based on a self-help book), and it's predictable (it's a teen movie), Mean Girls perfectly balances genuinely funny material with overly broad comedy about things I experienced as a teenager. What's not to like?
Tina Fey--Saturday Night Live senior writer, Weekend Update co-host, and all-around hottie--wrote the screenplay. In addition, she plays a fetching, sarcastic math teacher in the movie. Which is a very nice foil to the fetching, earnest Lindsay Lohan in the lead. I also thought Tim Meadows, as the school principal, was hilarious.
Here's how Mean Girls scored on a scale of 1 - 10 in my categories of analysis:
* Shoes: 3. Unmemorable. Which is extra-disappointing because in the great tradition of teen movies, Mean Girls puts a lot of emphasis on the (sluttly) clothes. Are teenagers really allowed to dress like that?
* Dogs: 2. One brief, gross scene with a Chihuahua. I blocked it out and only remembered it when Amy reminded me afterward.
But making up for that was the male lead, who looked and acted exactly like a low-key yellow Lab. In fact, his role and his appearance were so generic, I'm sure the filmmakers could have digitally excised the equivalent performance from any old teen flick (Freaky Friday, Clueless, Sixteen Candles) and just inserted the footage here. I mean, you've seen one strenuously confused pair of dark brown eyes, you've seen 'em all.
* Cell phones: 10/10. Abused neither in the movie nor the theater.
* Do things blow up? 0. Linsday Lohan vomits at one point, but that's not really the same thing.
* Poker: 0. Strip poker would've been an obvious scene in this movie. Probably, they filmed it and then cut it because it was just too clichéd.
The soundtrack for Mean Girls is notable. Among other piquant choices, it includes The Donnas recent remix of Billy Idol's 1981 "Dancing with Myself." Like "Crimson and Clover," the Tommy James song later resung by Joan Jett, this revamped version of an oldie takes on new meaning when sung by a chick. I've been humming it for three days straight now.
After Mean Girls, we took a 15-minute break for lunch, and then settled back into the cinemuck to wait for 13 Going on 30. For a while, the only other person in our row was an older, disheveled, paunchy man slouched in his seat and looking for all the world like the bad guy in The Lovely Bones. I was comforted--delighted, even--when the row filled in with a clutch of teenage....boys. I'm still not sure what to make of them. Were they at the theater to see Kill Bill Vol 2 and they couldn't get in? Were they doing a school project on movies filmed in New York? Were they scouting Jennifer Garner for their fantasies? Whatever. They were young. An early scene in the movie--which begins in 1987--shows a video of Rick Springfield, the very sight of which made me laugh so hard, I almost gagged. The boys looked at me dumbly.
And that's part of the limited charm of 13 Going on 30. It's ostensibly for tweens, but the teen years in the movie are set when today's adults were adolescents, giving 30-something parents a short trip down impaired memory lane, while their kids wonder who that guy singing "Thriller" is. Other than the wink-wink nudge-nudge cultural references, the movie has little going for it but Garner's spirited performance (she plays a woman who wakes up one day at 30, with her last memory at 13 wishing she were older). Big, with Tom Hanks, was the same movie, better written. But 13 Going on 30 isn't bad; it's just not interesting.
Here's how 13 Going on 30 scored on a scale of 1 - 10 in my categories of analysis:
* Shoes: 4. The clothes are cute, though. Garner plays a magazine editor, and she wears some suitably snazzy outfits.
* Dogs: 6. At first, I couldn't remember there having been any canine action in the movie. But then I thought, "This is the kind of movie that probably has some scene in which a big old Saint Bernard grabs an ice cream cone out of Garner's grasp." And then I remembered: that's exactly what happens, but I think it was an Irish Setter.
* Cell phones: 7/10. The film includes a funny-esqe joke about ring tones. Nobody fielded any calls in the theater during the flick.
* Do things blow up? 0. No, they just go awry.
* Poker: 0. Nah. There is a brief discussion of Battleship, however.
During a weepy scene at the end of the movie, I swear I heard one of the boys next to us let out a sob. Or, come to think of it, maybe it was the pedophile on the end of the row. But it doesn't really matter because I felt positively redeemed after a full day of sitting on my ass, eating candy, and humming along to vintage pop tunes. The news from Iraq may be devastating, and the attitude out of Washington worse. Meantime, your apartment may be messier than a tumbled Baghdad palace. But with the right frame of mind and few hours to spare, you can escape it all. Teen movies rule.
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