[Screen It]

(2001) (Chyler Leigh, Chris Evans) (R)

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Comedy: Various students go through the standard trials and tribulations of high school life in this parody of teen-based movies.
It's Janey Briggs (CHYLER LEIGH) birthday, but she's not particularly happy. A social outcast at John Hughes High School, the teen lives with her alcoholic father (RANDY QUAID) and younger teenage brother, Mitch (CODY McMAINS), who - like his geeky friends Bruce (SAMM LEVINE) and Ox (SAM HUNTINGTON) - is preoccupied with losing his virginity and is smitten with Amanda Becker (LACEY CHABERT), the "The Perfect Girl."

Unbeknownst to Janey, the popular jock, Jake Wyler (CHRIS EVANS), has made a bet with his friends -- Austin (ERIC CHRISTIAN OLSEN), the other quarterback; Reggie Ray (RON LESTER), the obese and dimwitted lineman; and Malik (DEON RICHMOND) "The Token Black Guy" - that he can turn her into the prom queen before school is out.

As Jake feigns romantic interest in Janey to win the bet - much to the chagrin of her obsessed best friend Ricky (ERIC JUNGMANN) -- and tries to ward off the libidinous advances of his incestuous sister, Catherine (MIA KIRSHNER), other students deal with their particular high school issues.

There's Priscilla (JAIME PRESSLY), the catty head cheerleader whose 1950s style squad-mate, Sandy Sue (JOANNA GARCIA), suffers from Tourette's syndrome. Meanwhile, Areola (CERINA VINCENT) is the foreign exchange student who's always nude, Les (RILEY SMITH) is the weird outsider who sees the beauty of everything, and finally Sadie (BEVERLY POLCYN) is an old reporter working undercover as a high school student.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
It was done the best with airline disaster films, although the cop buddy ones were also rather funny. Horror films, mafia pictures, spy flicks and even "The Fugitive" have been sources for more such comedies. Yes, I've talking about spoofs - the cannibalistic movie genre that chews on its cinematic kin for nutriment. The latest such effort, "Not Another Teen Movie," sets adolescent comedies and dramas in its sarcastic sights, but ultimately only comes off as just a mediocre effort at best.

For any spoof to work, it needs to follow some basic guidelines. First, the source material must be both plentiful and ripe for the picking. To ensure the most comedy possible, it much also deliver a high volume to successful laugh ratio, which is often accomplished by the machine gun approach of firing off as many jokes and gags as possible.

The film should also possess a decent, underlying plot to guide the shenanigans and act as a skeleton upon which the various, hopefully humorous elements will hang, as well as standalone humor and jokes that aren't completely related to and/or reliant upon the source material. Finally, it must be conceived, executed and handled with just the right touch to get the most comedic mileage out of what's offered.

Trolling back through the past several decades of films such as "Sixteen Candles" and "The Breakfast Club" up to more recent entries including "She's All That" and "10 Things I Hate About You," the film certainly has a treasure trove - if you will - of pictures from which to pick and then pick upon. Yet, while older audiences are likely to pick up the '80s film references, it's questionable whether the target audience here will get the spoofs of films such as "Risky Business," that were released before most of them were out of diapers.

What made the "Airplane" and "Naked Gun" films work so well in their time -- and even today -- was their generalizations of the genre and not the specifics of particular films. Thus, without concrete reference points for some of the gags and jokes, many of them won't have a fighting chance of eliciting humor among those unfamiliar with the targets.

To compensate for that, director Joel Gallen (making his feature film debut after directing many of the spoof moments in the MTV Movie Awards) and his squadron of screenwriters - Michael G. Bender & Adam Jay Epstein & Andrew Jacobson (collectively making their debut) and Phil Beauman & Buddy Johnson (the two "Scary Movie" films) - not only occasionally precede the jokes with the actual footage from the original film they're mocking - but also have thrown in various distasteful gags they hope will play on their own.

Unfortunately, the bits about Siamese twins joined at the head, a teen/older woman lesbian make-out scene and yet more literal bathroom humor aren't particularly funny beyond their shock value. Not leaving anything to chance, the filmmakers have also employed and deployed the machine gun approach, hoping that at least some of their shots will hit the funny bone.

The result, however, is a fractured and episodic feel as jokes and gags come and go with little connective rhyme or reason as if fired from a cinematic weapon called stream of consciousness. While the basic story of the movie "She's All That" serves as the backbone and underlying guiding force for the plot here, most of that and the cumulative efforts come off as nothing more than a loosely connected series of comedy vignettes.

Recognizable or not, most the humor is amusing at best, where one understands and/or appreciates the effort put forth, but probably won't be busting a gut from the results. Examples of that include a parody of "10 Things I Hate About You" where a young man serenades a woman from the stadium stands not with "You're Too Good To True" but "Janey's Got a Gun," a point that causes others to flee in terror since her name is Janey. There's also the whole bit about the "beautiful" floating bag and its admirer from "American Beauty," but those jokes don't feel as inspired as they should.

It is somewhat surprising that parodies of horror films were purposefully omitted since teens are often the most popular demographic regarding them both in the stories and target audience. The presence of the two "Scary Movie" films, however, probably intimidated Gallen and precluded him from using such material. While such an omission probably doesn't hurt the film, the fact that the filmmakers don't have the same touch as the Abrahams/Zucker/Zucker team (responsible for the "Airplane" and "Naked Gun" films) means that this one doesn't possess the same level of goofy comedic flair and timing.

As far as the performances are concerned, they're okay considering the material and what's asked of them, but none of them will be remembered in years to come. Some of the performers are present simply for their look-alike appearances - such as Riley Smith ("Bring It On") doing his best Wes Bentley - or the related gag of not having that quality such as is the case with Beverly Polcyn ("Legally Blonde," "Town & Country") who obviously doesn't look like Drew Barrymore from "Never Been Kissed."

Some fall into the "didn't they read the script" category including Cerina Vincent (MTV's "Undressed") who walks around sans any clothing, while others, such as Mia Kirshner ("Mad City," "Now and Forever") will probably be embarrassed by her role - despite the comedic intentions - in years to come.

The likes of Chyler Leigh (TV's "7th Heaven") and Chris Evans (various TV shows) are generally okay as the leads, while Deon Richmond ("Trippin'") gets some of the more amusing bits as the "token black guy," although that running gag begins to wear out its welcome long before the film is over. Randy Quaid ("Hard Rain," "Vegas Vacation") shows up as one of the few token adults and Paul Gleason reprises his teacher-covering-detention role from "The Breakfast Club" in a funny parody. Molly Ringwald ("Sixteen Candles," "Pretty in Pink"), however, is disappointing in her sarcastic bits related to the genre that made her a big star.

While the thought of spoofing and skewering the likes of "Varsity Blues," "Never Been Kissed" and characters played by the likes of Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Rachael Leigh Cook seems filled with potential, the overall picture - despite an occasional laugh here and a chuckle there - comes off as a hit or miss endeavor that unfortunately has more of the latter and never comes close to kicking into comedic overdrive. "Not Another Teen Movie" thus rates as just a 3.5 out of 10.

Reviewed November 12, 2001 / Posted December 14, 2001

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