July 27, 2006

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John Tucker Must Die (PG-13)
Three popular high school girls turn a wallflower into a fellow hottie in hopes of breaking their ex-boyfriend’s heart in John Tucker Must Die.

Heather (Ashanti) is the super-confident head cheerleader. Beth (Sophia Bush) is the super-slutty vegan animal rights activist. Carrie (Arielle Kebbel) is the super-driven head of the student government, honors society and TV news network. Though these shining teenage stars run in different crowds, they have one thing in common — they are all dating school basketball star John Tucker (Jesse Metcalf). Not that they are aware of this. John Tucker has managed to convince each of them that she is his one and only but, during basketball season, they must keep their love a secret. A sudden rearranging of gym schedules, however, but the three girls into contact and they find out about their cheatin’ man. At first their reaction is to pummel each other with volleyballs but then the calming voice of Kate (Brittany Snow) intervenes.

Who is Kate? Kate is essentially the same character that Hilary Duff played in The Perfect Man, a movie in which Duff’s mom (played by Heather Locklear) moved the family around every time she broke up with a boyfriend and Duff eventually decided to cook up a man to keep her mom in one place. In this movie, Kate’s mom (Jenny McCarthy) also does the dating of losers thing and the moving thing but Kate is far more bitter about it. She gets a squinty, steely look whenever these wham-bam men come sniffing around for her mom and she has a certain instant dislike of the womanizing John Tucker for the same reason. Also, you know, planning an evil high school plot is a really excellent way for teenage girls to bond.

Faced with the prospect of making new friends and getting to stick it to a big meanie boy, Kate suggests that the warring girls join forces to battle John. Eventually, battling John requires Kate to date John — which leads to the typical teen-movie development of a “smart” girl getting a makeover and falling for the wrong boy. Complicating matters is the fact that Kate has actual feelings of like for The Other Tucker, John’s alternacool brother.

Actually, Kate’s not that smart and the movie isn’t nearly as fun as it sounds. The movie has a lot of funny and promising components — Kate’s bitterness toward players, the fact the three spurned Tucker girlfriends are way too good for him, the non sequitur weirdness of Jenny McCarthy playing anyone’s mom. But none of these elements are really developed all that well. Rather than let the girls dig deep to fully develop their inner bitchiness, the movie keeps their character development to their lip gloss color and the occasional arch of a perfectly groomed eyebrow. Where Tucker should have us drunk with Mean-Girls-like giggles, it gets only the occasional mild chuckle. Kate melts into a standard newly-Barbiefied weenie and the whole gang of kids sorta learn a kinda valuable lesson — that destroying somebody is, like, way uncool — but without that Tina Fey smirk that made the bubble-gummy denouement of Mean Girls palatable. C


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