[Screen It]


(1999) (Rose McGowan, Rebecca Gayheart) (R)

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Bad Attitude
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Black Comedy: Several popular high school students try to cover up their friend's accidental death for which they're responsible.
At Reagan High School, a four-girl clique rules the halls. Courtney Shane (ROSE McGOWAN) is the bitchy leader, while Julie Freeman (REBECCA GAYHEART), Marcie "Foxy" Fox (JULIE BENZ) and Liz Purr (CHARLOTTE ROLDAN), the "nice" girl, follow her lead.

As such, Julie and Marcie have no problems joining Courtney in abducting Liz on her seventeenth birthday, binding and gagging her, and throwing her in their trunk -- all part of a birthday prank. Arriving at their destination, however, they learn that Liz has suffocated to death from the jawbreaker they stuffed into her mouth to keep her quiet.

Panicked, the friends try to figure out what to do, but the icily cold Courtney has a plan. They'll take Liz back to her parents' house and make it look like she was raped. Everything works right until Fern Mayo (JUDY EVANS GREER), their school's homely nerd, shows up bringing Liz's homework to the reportedly "sick" girl.

Shocked at what she's seen and heard, Fern tries to escape, but Courtney offers her an option. In turn for not telling anyone about what's transpired, they'll let her join their clique, complete with an attractive makeover. Uncertain, but definitely wanting to be popular, Fern agrees.

Even so, Julie begins to have her doubts and confides in the school's "hunky" actor, Zack Tartak (CHAD CHRIST), although her behavior eventually causes Courtney to replace her with Vylette, Fern's unrecognizably attractive and popular alter ego. As the pressure mounts on the girls to maintain their lie, including dealing with Detective Vera Cruz (PAM GRIER) who's working the case, they find their former friendships rapidly deteriorating.

Since it's aimed squarely at the teen audience, it's quite likely that kids who fall into that age category may just want to see it.
For sexuality, language and violence, all involving teens.
  • ROSE McGOWAN plays the snobbish, bitchy character who looks down on nearly everyone, cusses a lot, and callously forces the others to join her in covering up their responsibility regarding their friend's accidental death.
  • REBECCA GAYHEART plays a clique member who starts to gain a conscience upon becoming increasingly disturbed over the results of their actions. She also cusses a bit.
  • JULIE BENZ plays another snobbish girl who's definitely a follower of the clique and its leader, Courtney.
  • JUDY EVANS GREER plays the homely school nerd who adopts a conceited, bitchy attitude once she's had her popularity makeover.
  • CHAD CHRIST plays the popular drama student who befriends Julie.


    OUR TAKE: 2.5 out of 10
    Egad! They're back! Run for the hills! Run for your lives! Whatever you do, run away from the theaters because the teenage-oriented films are back with a vengeance. Not since the "Brat Pack" infested movie houses during the 1980's have so many teenage related films hit the silver screen, and boy, they're starting to get bad again.

    Just a month and a half into 1999, the latest such release, "Jawbreaker," has already been preceded by several other similarly targeted pictures that hope their low budgets, when combined with idle teens flush with ready cash in hand, will mean quick profits before a speedy and most likely forgetful trip to home video.

    Titled after the pivotal golf ball-sized candy that must have been invented by dentists who wanted another reason to keep their practices thriving, this is yet another film partly inspired by the success of scribe Kevin "Scream" Williamson. As such, it contains readily apparent attempts at trying to be clever by "borrowing" referential elements from other popular films with which teens can identify. In this case that mostly means the 1980's pseudo cult hit, "Heathers," although other high school set films, such as "Carrie" in the big finale, are also referenced.

    Yet this film doesn't just borrow those elements from that Winona Ryder/Christian Slater vehicle - - instead it rips them out and appropriates them much like a hermit crab moving into a new, but familiar looking shell. While it may appear the same on the polished outside, the interior soul is much different. To roughly paraphrase a line from a former vice-presidential debate, "I've seen 'Heathers' and you, 'Jawbreaker,' are no 'Heathers.'"

    Despite the Williamson comment, however, the film isn't even remotely scary -- unless one's referring to its quality and entertainment value, or more accurately, lack thereof -- and the homage elements are sparse and not particularly clever. To be more accurate, they're more visible in the press kit notes as credited to sophomore writer/director Darren Stein (his first film has yet to be released) than on the screen, but there's still no denying "Scream's" influence on this production.

    It's "Heathers" and that film's characters, tone and overall charred blackness, however, that this picture most closely resembles. Had director Michael Lehmann's 1989 film never existed, than this release would seem more worthwhile and original. Unfortunately, that's not the case and this one greatly suffers from the inevitable comparisons between the two.

    Despite -- or because of -- the stylistic lensing courtesy of cinematographer Amy Vincent ("Eve's Bayou") that includes many slow motion shots of the girls walking down the school hallways in unison, and the requisite thumping soundtrack (that seems to have had more attention paid to it than coming up with a more original plot), the film isn't much more than mildly interesting at best.

    While it quickly starts off with an interesting premise -- a prank gone disastrously bad that causes those responsible to try to cover it up -- the film can't quite figure out how to maintain that early momentum. No matter how much clique-related "teen speak" Stein lets flow from his character's mouths, he can't manage to keep things lively enough to maintain the audience's interest for the film's duration.

    The performances -- mostly straight out of "Heathers" -- don't fare much better. Other than Rose McGowan ("Scream") who delivers a somewhat wickedly fun take as the "queen bitch" as it were, the rest of the characters and the performers who inhabit them are instantly forgettable. Not even Rebecca Gayheart ("Scream 2"), in the Winona Ryder "good girl of the clique" role, can do much with her part that doesn't offer her significant material with which to work.

    With "inside" jokes that few non-film buffs will get (Pam Grier's character is named after a 1954 Gary Cooper movie) and a plot and characters too similar to the afore mentioned Lehmann film, this picture feels too rehashed and familiar for its own good. Although its low budget should ensure instant profitability, don't expect this one to become a cult hit like the sharper and more clever "Heathers." We give "Jawbreaker" a 2.5 out of 10.

    Here's a quick summary of the content found in this R-rated film. Profanity is extreme with 17 "f" words and an assortment of other words and phrases. A brief sexually related scene occurs (with some movement), there's implied oral sex in another, as well as some sexually suggestive dialogue and related gestures, and lots of cleavage.

    A character accidentally dies during a prank, and we several shots of the dead body (that include blue "death" splotches and lips, etc...). Most of the central clique members have bad attitudes toward others, and they're exacerbated by the students' callous attempt to cover up their misdeed.

    Beyond all of that and some drinking and smoking, however, the remaining categories are relatively void of major objectionable content. Even so, and since many teens may be drawn to this picture, you may want to take a closer look at the listed content should you still be concerned with its appropriateness.

  • Marcie's father has a beer on the table in front of him.
  • People drink in a bar.
  • Julie, Fern and Zack have a champagne toast.
  • We see several shots of Liz's dead body (that include a large lump in her throat -- from the jawbreaker lodged there -- as well as purple lips and blotches across her body). Later, we hear "cracking" sounds as the girls move Liz's head and try to spread her legs (from the rigor mortis that has already set in).
  • We briefly see some blood inside a chicken egg in a Home Ec. class.
  • Vylette has a bandage around her head (after fainting and falling down) that has a bloody spot on it.
  • Obviously the young women involved in the accidental murder have extreme cases of both (for pulling the prank and then covering up the accidental death), as well as for being conceited, snobby "bitch" characters who look down at other students, especially Fern before her makeover.
  • A male student refers to Fern (after her makeover) as "fresh meat."
  • The scene where Liz's three masked "friends" grab her from her sleep, gag and bind her (with a jawbreaker in her mouth) and then throw her in a car's trunk may be unsettling or disturbing to some viewers. The same holds true for later shots of her dead and blotchy purple body.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Bitch" (said many times), "Carpet munchers" (those who participate in lesbian oral sex), "I could give a sh*t," "Eat sh*t," "Eat me," "Pissed off," "Go to hell," "Sucks," "Life's a bitch, then you die," and "Slut."
  • As a birthday ritual, Liz's three masked "friends" grab her from her sleep, gag and bind her (with a jawbreaker in her mouth) and then throw her in a car's trunk.
  • We see some students with various parts of their body pierced (lips, etc...) or tattooed.
  • A jock flicks his tongue at Courtney in a suggestive fashion, Marcie makes a gesture with her hand and mouth that indicates male oral sex, and another student makes the female oral sex gesture (flicking her tongue through her spread fingers).
  • None.
  • Only a tiny bit of suspenseful music occurs during a few scenes.
  • None that was heard among the many songs on the soundtrack.
  • At least 17 "f" words (1 used sexually), 9 "s" words, 2 slang terms for male genitals ("d*ck" and "c*ck"), 5 hells, 3 asses, 1 S.O.B., 1 damn, and 16 uses of "Oh my God," 3 each of "Oh God" and "God," and 1 use each of "Swear to God," "My God" and "Jesus" as exclamations.
  • There are several shots of Liz in her underwear, both when she's alive and when she's dead.
  • Courtney shows varying amounts of cleavage (sometimes a lot) in the outfits she wears (causing the principal in one scene to tell her to cover her bosom since "this is an educational institution, not a brothel").
  • During the opening credits there are still photos of the friends in bikinis that also show cleavage.
  • A jock flicks his tongue at Courtney in a suggestive fashion.
  • While making a gesture with her hand and mouth that indicates male oral sex, Marcie jokingly says that maybe Liz was "practicing...and swallowed."
  • A girl makes the female oral sex gesture (flicking her tongue through her spread fingers) back at Courtney and the others.
  • Courtney tells a male student to come by her place later and says, "I don't know about you, but I could deal with a little kink" (meaning kinky sex). Later, we see her and this guy on a bed (she in a nightie and he in his underwear). Carrying a popsicle, she tells him, "Suck my big stick." She then says "Do you want it?" but he replies that he wants her and she says the same back to him. She then adds, "Right about now I could get really hot, and I mean hot." Climbing on top of him, she says "I want to, I want to real bad. The problem is, I've forgotten how...If you could just show me..." He then gets the hint and suggestively licks at the popsicle, which causes her to move down his body (presumably to give him oral sex which we don't see, but the pleasured reaction on his face heavily suggests that). They're then interrupted by someone at the door and he says "Don't go" to which she replies, "Don't come."
  • Julie shows some cleavage, as does Vylette.
  • Detective Cruz (a woman) asks the girls about Liz, "Who was she f*cking?" and Courtney lies to her saying that Liz liked having sex with strangers.
  • Marcie comments that "a nice round ass" turns her on.
  • We see a man's expression as he has sex with Courtney (we first just see his head and shoulders that imply sexual movement, but then see him having sex with her from behind, but we don't see any nudity) while Liz's dead body lies under the bed (Courtney is trying to set it up to look like Liz -- a virgin -- had sex with a man who then killed her).
  • We see a mechanic and Vylette roll out from under a car on a rolling cart (both fully clothed) with the man lying between her legs.
  • Referring to going to their prom, Courtney tells another girl that she's being cocky, but that it's too bad she doesn't have "the c*ck part" down.
  • Some students think that Julie and Fern are involved in some sort of lesbian activity, prompting one to flick her tongue and call them "carpet munchers" (slang for lesbian oral sex).
  • Siting on a guy's lap at the prom, Marcie tells him that she thinks it's time for a "little room service."
  • Some students smoke in the bathroom.
  • The principal smokes.
  • People smoke in a bar.
  • Vylette briefly smokes.
  • Although we don't see much of the reaction, some parents must deal with finding their dead daughter.
  • The "prank" that Liz's friends pulled, and their attempts to cover up their major wrongdoing (including staging a faked rape).
  • The way some students treat others in high school.
  • Liz's friends bind and gag her, resulting in her accidental death from asphyxiation caused by a jawbreaker lodged in her throat.
  • Courtney slams Vylette into a bathroom mirror while mad at her, and Julie later pushes Courtney back against a locker.
  • Students throw their corsages at Courtney.

  • Reviewed February 12, 1999 / Posted on February 19, 1999

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