[Screen It]

(2006) (Brittany Snow, Jesse Metcalfe) (PG-13)

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Comedy: A group of high school girls put their differences behind them so that they can get revenge on the most popular guy in high school who's been dating all of them simultaneously.
Kate (BRITTANY SNOW) is an average teen who's the new girl at her high school. With her promiscuous but constantly heartbroken mom Lori (JENNY McCARTHY) as her only role model for the world of dating, Kate has yet to enter that, not only because she's only witnessed failure, but also because she's always seen herself as invisible.

That's unlike John Tucker (JESSE METCALFE), the most popular guy at her school who's also rich and the captain of the basketball team. Along with his best friend and fellow athlete Tommy (FATSO-FASANO), John enjoys the attention the ladies pour over him, such as from head cheerleader Heather (ASHANTI), vegan Beth (SOPHIA BUSH) and intellectual school TV reporter Carrie (ARIELLE KEBBEL).

He thinks he has it made, but when those three girls discover that he's been dating all of them simultaneously, they're shocked, heartbroken, and mad. Although she doesn't know them, Kate suggests that they get revenge on him, and it doesn't take much persuasion to convince them. But as their attempts to make him "un-dateable" backfire, they eventually decide to make him interested in Kate only to have her then dump him.

She's initially reluctant, but soon enjoys the newfound popularity as well as the attention he pays to her, much to the concern of her mom and his more low-key brother Scott (PENN BADGLEY) who are dismayed by her change in attitude and behavior. As the girls continue with their quest, Kate finds herself torn and must then decide what she should do.

OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
When it comes to the warmest time of the year and romance, phrases such as "Summer Lovin'" and "The Summer of Love" are familiar. Yet the summer of 2006 may just go down as the Cinematic Summer of Discontent. First, Jen & Vince played a live-in couple that splits in "The Break-Up." Then Luke Wilson made the mistake of dumping Uma Thurman in "My Super Ex-Girlfriend," and both movies featured the ladies getting their revenge on the men for the end of romance.

And while hell may not have anything on a superhero woman scorned, neither she nor that fiery place down under can compare to teenage girls when they're dumped by the high school lothario who was dating them simultaneously. At least that's the premise of "John Tucker Must Die," an imaginatively titled teen comedy where the creativity apparently ended with that descriptive moniker.

It even starts like another film -- and a Hilary Duff one at that -- when our protagonist (Brittany Snow) narrates that she and her single mom (Jenny McCarthy) move every time the latter breaks up with her latest jerk of a boyfriend. Rather than being the beginning of "The Perfect Man II," however, the filmmakers -- writer Jeff Lowell and director Betty Thomas -- are laying the thematic groundwork of how the self-proclaimed invisible teen views males and relationships.

So she then sees the dreamy titular character -- "Desperate Housewives'" Jesse Metcalf -- on a date with one girl after another at the same restaurant. When they later learn the truth -- resulting in the obligatory "catfight" -- it's the milquetoast Kate who comes up with the revenge idea.

Of course, they don't really want to kill him, at least in a literal sense. But they do want to emasculate him in terms of making him "un-datable." And this is where the film -- especially considering the title and its implications -- should really take off. Yet, rather than be the second coming of "Heathers" or "Mean Girls" in terms of how down and dirty teen girls can get when wanting to ruin others, the results here are decidedly less than what anyone would consider killer comedy. "John Tucker Must Blush" is more like it.

With a bevy of sky's the limit potential, what do the girls -- Ashanti, Sophia Bush and Arielle Kebbel -- decide to do? After lifting a V.D. poster gag from an old episode of TV's "Friends" (where Mr. Tucker joins Joey Tribbiani in unknowingly posing for an ad campaign that makes others think he has "the clap"), the teens spike his energy drink with estrogen. The result? Tender breasts and a weepy emotionalism that comes to a head on the basketball court (He asks if his thighs look fat in his shorts and then pleads, "Why did you look at me like that?").

Their subject, however, spins those bits of obvious high school ruination in his favor, prompting the girls to bring out their heavy gun -- they'll get Kate to date and then dump him. The rest of the film then follows the girls instructing her how to be an aloof tease, kiss (leading to a boy gawker going slack-jawed upon stumbling upon the girl-on-girl action), and get Mr. Tucker in some thong underwear for yet another photo gag.

Adding insult to injury, the film segues from a lame revenge fantasy to an equally lame, dramatic teen romance during this second half where -- shock of all shocks -- the perp and target develop feelings for each other (and -- double shock -- it's Jenny McCarthy who appears as the voice of reason). Younger teens might enjoy all of this and/or not see where the story's headed, but everyone else will likely be nodding off due to the languid mediocrity of it all.

The filmmakers try to keep things lively with a constant influx of sexual content and sight gags, but even all of that shows little imagination (surprisingly, the bits featuring the athletes, students and male administrators displaying the tops of thongs riding up from under their pants or shorts doesn't get funnier with each repeat occurrence).

Performances are equally flat, with Snow doing nothing as the protagonist beyond occasionally resembling Reese Witherspoon's cousin. Metcalfe comes off as the most accomplished of the bunch (even if he's a 27-year-old playing a teen, much as is nearly the case with Ashanti), but he's had plenty of practice playing the hunky heartthrob so it's not much of a comedic stretch for him.

Proving that the "dog days of summer" refers to more than just the outside temperature, "John Tucker Must Die" continues a string of break-up films that aren't clever or smart enough in dealing with such matters. The film rates as a 3 out of 10.

Reviewed July 21, 2006 / Posted July 28, 2006

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