There is a lot that is wrong with Not Another Teen Movie (2001). At the same time, there is a limited way to appreciate a film that features overt sibling attractions and whole host of other objectionable material that almost made this Catholic reviewer turn it off. The amount of stuff I would rather not see starts from the first scene in the movie, but we will get to that in a moment. The reason I said “limited” a moment ago is because amongst the muck and mire is a legitimate commentary on the sameness of films. The title basically says everything you need to know. Particularly since the 1980s, there have been a slew of movies dealing with the experience of being a teenager in high school. Today’s offering attempts to spoof the common tropes you see in all of them. It is just a shame that it came out at a time when we thought as a society that to be gross was to be humorous.
As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, Not Another Teen Movie gets off to a less than pleasing start. The nerdy Janey Briggs (Chyler Leigh) is watching one of the films this one is making fun of while doing . . . a thing which I would rather not repeat. Matters are made worse when her family and half the neighborhood walk into her room unannounced, and the device she had been using is, er, lodged. It is all meant to show how awkward and ugly she supposedly is (she is actually gorgeous, but that is part of the joke), even though this all could have been skipped by going straight to the next scene at the high school. There we meet the most popular guy at school, Jake Wyler (Chris Evans). His popularity is reinforced by a smiling picture of himself in the hallway. His reputation goes untarnished when not long into the day he is approached by Priscilla (Jaime Pressly), his girlfriend, who informs Jake that they are no longer together. Now single and in need of a date for prom, his friend Austin (Eric Christian Olsen) proposes that Jake take the most hideous girl in school. This is when Janey walks by, and of course this is the person Austin picks. To sweeten the deal, they make a bet stating that Jake must make her prom queen. This commences a series of failed attempts to woo Janey, each of which are routinely shot down, including when Jake sings “Janey’s Got a Gun” to the school at the football stadium. You can guess why that would be a problem. There are a few challenges to be faced along the way. The least of these is Ricky Lipman (Eric Jungmann), who has been obsessed with Janey for some time and supposedly is best suited for her. As Janey has been doing for years, his desperate tries to subvert Jake’s efforts go ignored. The other is Jake’s sister Catherine (Mia Kirshner). When Jake does not meet with success, he turns to his creepy sister for advice. I do not mean that she is creepy in terms of looks, but rather behavior. Put more succinctly, she wants to have sex with Jake, her actual, full-blooded brother. Wanting to win the bet, he agrees to her assistance in exchange for her, um, proposal. Catherine’s advice is to be more sensual. When that does not work, Jake changes tactics and tries a more sensitive approach. This, along with Catherine’s suggestion to simply remove her glasses, make Janey being named prom queen a little more likely in Austin’s eyes. Hence, he tricks Jake into revealing to Janey that the whole thing is a set-up, which crushes her. On the appointed evening, Janey instead goes to prom with Austin. Though Jake is named the king of the ceremony, it is a set of conjoined Siamese twins that earn the queen spot. During the expected dance between the winners, Austin and Janey take their leave. Jake finds out that Austin had arranged for them to go to a hotel room. Upon bursting through the door of said room, Jake finds Austin and Priscilla together, Janey having gone home. Now it is off to the Briggs’ residence, where her dad (Randy Quaid) informs him that Janey is left to go to Paris for art school. Jake makes it to the airport just in time to stop Janey from boarding the plane (those were the days, huh?). They have a tearful reunion full of teenaged movie clichés, which is interrupted mid-stream by the real queen of these movies, Molly Ringwald, who is playing a stewardess. She gives them a dose of reality about their planned rosy future, which Jake acquiesces to first in the bluntest manner imaginable. Undeterred, Janey waves it off as having come from The Karate Kid (1984) (it did not), and our film happily ends.
There is some other stuff in Not Another Teen Movie that I did not cover in the synopsis, like Janey’s little brother Mitch (Cody McMains) and his friend attempting to get laid. These are barely worth mentioning, so consider that done. There is also scene after scene of objectionable material, including a female foreign exchange student who cannot be bothered to wear clothing. It is unnecessary, to say the very least. Still, as I mentioned at the beginning, the only reason for watching this is to see how it makes fun of other movies. If you are a film buff, you can spot the references. I am not going to go over them. That would be tedious. As a Catholic film reviewer, I am here to tell you whether or not a film has value. There is none in this one. It is not enough to see it just for all the other movies to which it speaks. In Mass today, the Gospel reading was from Matthew 15 where Jesus tells us that it is what comes from within that defiles, not what you put into your body. One might look at such a statement and think that it does not matter what you consume. You can watch anything you like, as long as you do not let it get to you. Watching trash, though, does not help. There is a reason why pornography is so damaging. It gives a false representation of sexuality, just like a film like this does not do justice to the issues therein. In keeping with Matthew 15, I also try not be hyper-critical of things, unless they actually deserve it. This film is bad, it should not be watched, but I can at least appreciate in a small way the fact that it points out the lack of originality in films.
Instead of consuming a film like Not Another Teen Movie in order to see just how unoriginal a certain film genre can be, simply read this review. I promise you that it will be better for your soul than seeing the movie.
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