26 October 2009

Retro Review: John Tucker Must Die (2006)


John Tucker Must Die
2006, 89mins, PG-13
Director: Betty Thomas
Writer: Jeff Lowell
Cast includes: Jesse Metcalfe, Brittany Snow, Sophia Bush, Ashanti, Arielle Kebbel
Release Date: 28th July 2006

Teen comedies are an awkward beast at the best of times, nearly every High School cliché has now been exploited and with PG-13 now all the rage it’s nearly impossible to find a new example of the genre that packs bite and seems fresh. In 2004 “Mean Girls” accomplished that feat but in 2006 “John Tucker Must Die” really didn’t. A thoroughly bland and monotonous teenage caper, “John Tucker” is a recent nadir for the genre and displays a thousand reasons as to why both Jesse Metcalfe and Brittany Snow should be given long stretches of unemployment. The movie doesn’t work on any level, as a revenge flick it’s toothless, as a comedy it’s unfunny and as a romance it’s barely tepid.

John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe) is king of the School, a sporting hero and legendary lothario amongst the female populous. Notorious for having more than one squeeze at a time Tucker ends up infuriating three of the schools most prominent girls when they find out they’re all dating him at the same time. Despite a natural distaste for each other the trio (Ashanti, Sophia Bush, Arielle Kebbel) recruit Kate (Brittany Snow) a social no hoper whom they believe could be the key to bringing the man down. Vamping her up they plan to break his heart just like he broke theirs; however nobody accounts for the fact that Kate might end up falling for the cocky stud.

Man does this movie ever blow. A despicably predictable and laugh free affair “John Tucker” is the very antithesis of a badly made High School film, it’s hard to imagine even the most undiscerning of teenage girls finding much to like about this one. The performances are completely unmemorable, each of the three scamming girls written as a grating and underdeveloped genre staple. Brittany Snow is equally as flavorless in one of the most ridiculous ugly duckling parts ever conceived, she’s a complete bombshell from beginning to end and any suggestion to the contrary just comes off as ludicrous and lazy. However the worst is saved for the title character, Metcalfe looks the part but boy does he fail to act it. Tucker is for three quarters of the runtime presented as a one dimensional meathead (even in this mode Metcalfe struggles) but in the last section he is provided with one of the least convincing and laughable character arcs I’ve seen committed to celluloid in recent years. He creates absolutely no chemistry with any of the leading female figures, who in fairness are as much at fault here as Metcalfe. This cast seems to be the very definition of uninspired and I would usually be suggesting they’re all slumming for the money, but based on their C list status even that can’t have amounted to much.

The gags are limp from start to finish with one underwear based joke being drawn out to punishing length during the movies second half. I tittered once during the films runtime and snorted in disdain several times but aside from that the movie had me sitting in stone faced silence for the duration. It’s vaguely sickening to think that in this day and age comedies can still receive theatrical release with so few laughs but then with Jeff Lowell as a screenwriter what do you expect? A notoriously awful scribe Lowell was also responsible for the equally vomit inducing “Over Her Dead Body”, his vanishing from the industry would be akin to the halting of a mass cinematic genocide. The PG-13 rating prevents the movie from getting to gnarly but it doesn’t explain the complete lack of sass or attitude, “John Tucker” is a film as tonally bland as they come and is solid contender for the least acidic revenge film of all time.

The romantic subplots are equally as unappealing and unoriginal; only a dummy would fail to see the conclusion before it arrives. There are moments where the movie looks to construct some sort of love triangle element that might have at least made things a bit more interesting, but ultimately it settles for a toxic and generic romance that goes everywhere you’d expect and nowhere you want. The direction from Betty Thomas pretty much boils down to applying sitcom sheen, though her pacing of the project is way off. I honestly thought “John Tucker” was approaching its finish on the hour mark but it actually trundles on for a further 25 minutes after that discounting the end credits. The storyline on show is to linear to work purely on its own, meatier characters or more consistent laughs the only way to successfully pad out the thin plot. Unfortunately “John Tucker” lacks both and amounts in retrospect to one of 2006’s most poisonous cinematic offerings.

A review by Daniel Kelly, 2009


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