Speaking of performances by actors lifting a film…
I love a great teen movie for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, they’re always fun. There are honestly just not that many fun movies out there these days. Why do you think everyone went to go see Grown Ups? That movie was clearly a pile of poop from the get-go, and it made $160 million. There’s just a dearth of movies where no one gets pregnant or deals with their parents’ suicide or is beaten to death in a bathroom with a rusty crowbar. I think about this every year during Oscar season, when everyone is gushing about whichever movie featured the most inspiring someone-overcoming-something this year. Why not have some more hijinks in the theater next year? For chrissakes, even Bride Wars made $60 million at the box office. There’s clearly a market for hijinks.
How hard can these movies be to create? The new kid befriends the likable outsider, a few pranks are pulled, there’s an encounter with a eccentric principal played by a B-list comedian, followed by a raucous party scene where the bully get the tables turned on him, and the loser ends up with the girl of his dreams just as the sun’s coming up. Roll credits. I’m thinking of a late March release date. And wait, wasn’t that paragraph essentially the whole pitch for Take Me Home Tonight?
What’s more, these movies are always hugely rewatchable. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched Can’t Hardly Wait, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Dazed and Confused, Mean Girls (judge not!), etc. More movies should be so easy to keep coming back to. Will I ever watch 127 Hours again? Or True Grit? Or even The King’s Speech? Being frivolous doesn’t mean it’s not lasting.
But then I stop and think about how many of these movies – such as the ones in the opening paragraph – are just awful, and how easy it is for these movies to dissolve into lame sight gags and camera-mugging. That’s not the case here, though.
Emma Stone is a delight in this movie. She’s somehow just as perfectly convincing as the dorky outsider as she is as the untouchable girl in Superbad. There’s something very grounded about her that comes through in every line read, that makes it seem totally realistic that Jonah Hill or Jesse Eisenberg or whoever could end up with her despite all physical evidence to the contrary. She’s bright and exuberant and effortlessly funny here, but it doesn’t hurt that her supporting cast is so strong.
I’ll skip over the appearances of Cam Gigandet, Aly Michalka and Amanda Bynes, because everyone else is so good that I’m able to pretend that those actors never existed. There are strong performances by Thomas Haden Church, Lisa Kudrow, Penn Badgley, and Dan Byrd, all of whom are given roles that require both humor and gravity, which all four of them amply supply. But the trophy has to go to Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson as Stone’s parents, who are so in tune with each others comedic rhythm that it feels almost as if the camera’s just been left on and is picking up their natural chemistry. If someone wants to make a TV show where these two can snark affectionately at each other every week, I will watch the hell out of that. Oh, here’s a clip.
In summary (I’m trying to end this review like a high school essay. Didn’t know if that was coming across. I’m thinking of copying sentences of the first paragraph and pasting them here), more hijinks! And more Tucci and Clarkson. And less pregnancy-suicide-beatings and more whipped cream-themed food fights and mascots getting hurled into pools and such. I think these are all things all of us can get behind.