Don’t be fooled by the clever and entertaining trailer for this one. It’s yet another of the comedy dogs from the Columbia kennel, and it might actually be worse than such gems they sent our way this year as Joe Dirt and The Animal. Granted, Columbia wasn’t responsible for Freddy Got Fingered — or the yardstick by which all bad comedies will be measured for years to come, the already legendary Pootie Tang — but their batting average in the realm of comedy this year has been … well, less than stellar. The idea here wasn’t a bad one. Spoofing teen movies seems a natural, and the idea of establishing characters as a series of clever types associated with the genre — “The Pretty Ugly Girl,” “The Popular Jock,” “The Cocky Blonde Guy,” “The Desperate Virgins,” “The Token Black Guy” — was a good base from which to operate. But after TV director Joel Gallen and a team of no less than five writers were finished infusing this concept with the requisite amount of forced tastelessness masquerading as “daring” comedy, there’s nothing but a thwarted concept and a handful of mildly amusing bits left. Does the world really need or want yet another film that spends a solid five minutes setting up a gross-out scatalogical joke? After a time, what you’re left with is a series of cliches that are even more worn out than the ones the movie sets out to parody. Even the things that marginally work in Not Another Teen Movie are oddly judged and seem weirdly out-of-joint with any reasonable target audience. Did the writers honestly think that gags involving an institute of learning named John Hughes High School with a cafeteria called the Anthony Michael Dining Hall were going to register with a modern teenage audience, who might or might not have seen a John Hughes picture with or without Anthony Michael Hall when they were 5 years old? Worse, did they think that most of the citizens of the world who do remember these movies really care all that much to see this somewhat vapid, but relatively harmless, sub-genre laid to waste? All in all, the direct parodies of The Breakfast Club and the like have a disarming, nostalgic simplicity. Being housed in a hateful gross-out comedy causes them to take on the air of mean-spiritedness that pervades the bulk of the film. Sure, some of the gags — a cheerleader suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome, the whole “Token Black Guy” concept — are sufficiently outrageous that they do garner some laughs, but on the whole, they’re just cruel laughs, not the laughs of the subversively liberating humor found in, say, a John Waters picture. The problem then becomes that even when the movie is funny — and that’s rare enough — it tends to remain rather loathsome. The best things in it — a bizarrely interpolated production number that actually is subversive and a cameo by echt-teen star Molly Ringwald — are all but lost on the bulk of the movie’s presumed audience and not enough to expand on that audience. Is it the worst comedy of 2001? No, it misses that particular accolade by a fair margin, but that’s not an accomplishment within the grasp of most movies in what may just be the sorriest year comedy has ever had.
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