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UKScreen Rating:

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

John Tucker (Metcalfe) is the most popular guy at Forest Hills High School – captain of the basketball team and all-round good egg. All the girls want him, and he can pick whoever he wants.
He picks three – head cheerleader Heather (Ashanti), Beth (Bush) and Carrie (Kebbel) – of course they have no idea about each other.
When a staff shortage leads to all the girls in the school having their physical ed class together, it all comes out – and their claws come out.
Enter new girl Kate (Snow). Yet to make friends, she manages to break up the cat fight and unite the girls against their shared enemy – she comes up with a plot to emasculate John Tucker and turn him from god’s gift into the school laughing stock.
Of course – in all the best cinema tradition – things don’t go to plan, and the other girls start falling for the new, sensitive John, leading to our protagonists falling out again.
Of course – in all the best cinema tradition – he learns his lesson and everything works out OK for everyone.
Don’t worry – I haven’t spoilt it for you – if any of that would’ve come as a surprise, you probably wouldn’t be able to read this anyway.

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

On one level, this film will be enjoyable for the young teenage girls it depicts, in their endless quest to win over the school hunk and shine above their love rivals.
On another level, it’s asking us to identify with the sweet, lonely new girl, who comes up with a devious plot to demonise, ridicule and generally destroy a complete stranger – a man she’s never met and who’s done her no harm.
It seems highly uncharitable for any film-makers to expect a sweet, kind and sympathetic cinema-going audience to cheer for such a heartless girl – someone who’d happily destroy a man’s reputation in order to get the cool gang to like her.
OK, so many of you girls out there will think John Tucker deserves everything he gets, but in the real world, that’s kind of not the point. OK, he’s as smarmy and unfaithful as she is supercilious and unthoughtful – and they’re as devious as each other – but two wrongs don’t make a right.
Films like Mean Girls and the recent Pretty Persuasion take a wry, dark look at high-school politics, but manage to underscore the black humour with a worthwhile message. This film thinks it’s a light and breezy romp through teenage angst, but it’s really rather snide and nasty.
It’s a shame that someone who initially seems like a sweet, innocent girl turns out to be so cold and calculating – the problem is that the film-makers treat her as if she’s the sweet and innocent – if a little sassy – girl throughout, whereas actually, she’s the manipulative one who turns three clueless – if scorned – in-crowd girls into devious dragons, bent on revenge at any cost.
It thinks it’s a fluffy romantic comedy – but actually, it has a truly dark side that it doesn’t seem to know anything about.
Yes, the characters are rather attractive and fun and they’ll certainly make you laugh from time to time, but the so-called goodies are every bit as evil as the baddie – and with four little devils against one, he really doesn’t have a hope in hell.
Don’t send your daughters to this film in the hope of teaching the Hollywood-style ideal of perfect morality, as they’ll come away with all the tools necessary for the toolbox of immorality.
Perhaps I’m being unfair – or a spoilsport – anyone would think I’d been caught cheating and punished accordingly – I haven’t – but anyone who can be bothered to think about this film will leave the cinema with a sour taste in the mouth.

opens nationwide 18th August 2006

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