A crass act / Gross-out teen flick imagines it's a parody

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A crass act
Gross-out teen flick imagines it's a parody

Mick LaSalle, Chronicle Movie Critic
  Friday, December 14, 2001

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EMPTY CHAIR

NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE: Comedy. Starring Chyler Leigh and Chris Evans. Directed by Joel Gallen. (R. 87 minutes. At Bay Area theaters.)


"Not Another Teen Movie" proves that it's possible to make a movie so tasteless and so crude that audiences don't laugh. This is worthwhile information. It means there's a limit. The movie is like a probe sent into what was assumed to be infinite space -- only to hit a black wall in the galaxy just beyond "American Pie."

Example: A son confides to his father that he has romantic troubles. The father tells him not to worry; he has just the girl to end his sexual longing. Whereupon he sends in the boy's mother. Are we laughing yet? No, we're still waiting for the punch line. But that is the punch line.

"Not Another Teen Movie" is rated R, and it should be, for its raunchy references to oral sex, coprophilia and incest, not to mention all the nudity and the atmosphere of all-around prurience. Yet, ironically, it's designed to be appreciated most by people who are too young to buy themselves a ticket.

The picture is a satire of the teen movie genre. For an adult, seeing a parody of "She's All That," the 1999 Rachael Leigh Cook/Freddie Prinze romance,

is not only pointless. It feels instantaneous. Didn't we just see that thing? But to a 16-year-old, for whom time passes much more slowly, "She's All That" is part of the cultural landscape, something from the ancient days of junior high school.

About the oldest movie parodied here is "Can't Hardly Wait," a Jennifer Love Hewitt movie from 1998. There's a running gag involving a Hewitt look- alike who makes people stop in their tracks each time she enters the room. Not much of a running gag. The most recent film parodied is "Summer Catch," from way back in 2001, August to be exact. "Not Another Teen Movie" actually satirizes a movie from four months ago.

Satires earn their laughs by puncturing pretense, by finding the core of ridiculousness underneath the pompous surface. So how does one go about satirizing "American Pie"? For that matter, how would one satirize the Marx Brothers? Something that's already absurd, already intentionally ridiculous, can't truly be parodied. It can only be referenced -- and then, in a desperate attempt at humor, vulgarized. In the case of "American Pie," a filmmaker has to get up early in the morning to come up with something yet more vulgar than the original. Director Joel Gallen and a team of five writers manage it, with bland results.

The opening bit shows the heroine, brainy Janey Briggs (Chyler Leigh),

lying in bed one morning watching a romantic movie. Feeling inspired, she takes out an industrial-size vibrator and -- but no. Forget it. Being a film critic isn't the most dignified of callings, but everybody has his limit. Suffice it to say, the girl's father walks in, then the family priest, then some neighborhood children.

The movie follows the plotline of every other teen movie made in the past few years. A plain Jane, who's actually beautiful, falls in love with a jock (Chris Evans) who is, in fact, dating her just to win a bet. But then he falls in love, too. The film's one claim to wit is that it mocks the ludicrousness of a formula that, in order to work, depends on no one in the movie being able to tell that girls such as Rachael Leigh Cook and Julia Stiles ("10 Things I Hate About You") are among the prettiest in the school.

So what? Everybody knows those movies are silly.

The makers of "Not Another Teen Movie" should be embarrassed that, in parodying "She's All That," they copied most of the plot and then made a movie that bogs down in the same places as the original. It's not just ironic. It's pathetic: to make something called "Not Another Teen Movie" that's just another teen movie.


This film contains raunchy humor, nudity and sexual situations.

E-mail Mick LaSalle at mlasalle@sfchronicle.com.


 
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"Burnt Money"
Sexy.

"A Love Divided"
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"Not Another Teen Movie"
Tasteless.

"Tuvalu"
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