Friday, January 22, 2010

John Tucker Must Die (Betty Thomas, 2006)

They may throw around words like "kill" and "die" when making disparaging comments about John Tucker, but the young ladies that populate this flimsy excuse for a teen comedy are simply too wimpy, too wrapped up in their own pathetic brand of adolescent neurosis to do what needs to be done; and that is, straight-up murder his stupid ass in the most gruesome manner imaginable. Of course, I knew better not to think that they were going to actually harm him physically, but the fact John Tucker in John Tucker Must Die doesn't even come close to dying really irked me. Every frame that featured a healthy John Tucker bounding about in a perpetual state of not being mutilated left me with a feeling of profound sadness. Misguidedly waiting for someone to stand up and say: "I will force feed John Tucker his own bloodied genitals. Not only for the betterment of this nonspecific high school and this equally nonspecific town, but for the betterment of humanity." Instead, I sat there, my eyes seeing nothing sexy or violent, my ears hearing nothing salacious or stimulating. Just the flickering din of vapid uselessness. A complete misfire in terms of generating the attributes necessary to be considered a tolerable piece of filmed entertainment, this Betty Thomas directed fiasco may seem innocuous and nonthreatening on the surface. However, deep down, beneath all that frivolity, lies a repugnant message, and that is: "Don't get mad. Get even." The amount of energy the spurned girls in this movie waste trying to get "even" with John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe) was embarrassing to say the least. It hurts my brain thinking about all the productive things the girls could have accomplished had they focused their rage in a more creative fashion.

Personally, and I don't know if I've made this clear or not, but I would have chopped his head off with a freshly sharpened pair of hedge clippers while he bathed.

If only they had emulated the position taken by their Goth classmates and ignored the problem completely; the scornful glare a trio of Goth girls throw at Kate (Brittany Snow), Heather (Ashanti), Carrie (Arielle Kebbel) and Beth (Sophia Bush) as they wrestled on the gymnasium floor summed up everything that is that is wrong with this movie. Sitting on the sidelines in a passive haze, the look of indifference on the faces of the Goths as the girls fought (they were fighting because three of them had just discovered were all dating the captain of the basketball team simultaneously), perfectly encapsulated the disgust of the audience. (I can't tell you how pleased I was to see Goths sum up the lameness of a film so succinctly.)

This won't come as a shock, but the girls don't use the Goth indifference technique to deal with their boy problems. What they do rather is employ the help of Kate, the only girl in the gym fracas who isn't currently dating John Tucker. Oh, sure, they try to spread STD-related rumours about him and spike his water bottle with estrogen. But the main plan involves the inexperienced Kate dating John and then breaking his heart.

Desperately wanting to fit in, Kate puts aside her dignity, stops flirting with John Tucker's more sensitive brother Scott (Penn Badgley), and begins to heed the advice given to her by her new-found friends.

The quality of the performances can be judged simply by looking at who gets hit in the head with a volleyball and who doesn't. It should come as no surprise that the gorgeous Arielle Kebbel gets hit in the head with a volleyball multiple times. She plays Carrie, an overachiever, heavily into technology, and takes a couple of balls to the face like a seasoned professional.* The lovely Brittany Snow, who plays the shy and reserved Kate, gets hit squarely between the eyes with an errant ball. The fact that she got hit with a ball was one thing, the fact that she fell so adeptly upon being hit was what impressed me the most; a halfway decent pratfall is an important skill for an actress to have.

On the other side of the volleyball court were Sophia Bush and Ashanti. They didn't get hit in the head or face with a volleyball. Call me mentally unsound, but I took this inadequacy when it came to their heads and faces being hit with volleyballs as a total lack of commitment of their part. And since the volleyball scene happens pretty early on in film, every time I saw their non-volleyball plunked heads and faces on screen was a constant reminder of how much they sucked.

On top of that, the insipid Sophia Bush couldn't even make getting her tiny skirt caught in the door of a jeep sexy, and Ashanti played a vile cheerleader, yet failed to imbue her with a single redeeming quality. Which is a pretty hard thing to do, you know, since I'm naturally drawn to vile cheerleaders.

Epitomizing the blandness of the era with a yawn-inducing ease, Jesse Metcalfe combines the charm of a sadistic concentration camp guard with that of an overconfident frat boy doomed to drown in a lukewarm pool of his own sick. Everything from the way the hair on the back of his neck seemed to be perfectly symmetrical to his repulsive swagger screamed Freddie Prinze Jr.; which is a horrible thing for a human being to scream.

Now, I don't want to say that Jesse Metcalfe is the principal reason John Tucker Must Die is a complete failure; the crappy soundtrack, the tragic briefness of Nicki Clyne's appearance as "Beautiful Girl," the duel ineptitude of Ashanti and Sophia Bush, and the obscene premise (the idea of murdering him wasn't even spitballed) might have something to say about that. But the fact that I wanted him dead right from get-go is a testament to his awfulness.

* Just for the record, when I say Arielle "takes a couple of balls to the face like a seasoned professional," I'm referring to balls filled with air, not balls filled with the goo used to help make little boys and little girls. The way I worded it made it sound like she was getting hit the face with testicles (which are sometimes referred to as "balls"), and that was not my intention.



  1. Spot-on analysis. The title of this movie is wicked misleading. I remember liking Brittany Snow though.

  2. Yeah, I ain't watching it until they make a version where he does die.

    I had always wondered about this one's potential, tho...thanks for taking one for the team!

  3. Alex: I'll watch almost anything with Brittany Snow in it.

    Russ: I was stupid enough to think it was gonna be like Heathers. Instead, it was like an episode of Party of Party, except without the unshaven navel gazing and jizz-free dimples.

    No problem, man. I am, after all, a team player. Go Gamecocks!

  4. I guess they decided High School murder movies were cliché and wanted to throw a curve ball? (sorry, that was some kind of sport reference, wasn't it?).

    Maybe someone should have let Roger Corman make this one?

  5. It's my fault. I mean, I shouldn't have taken the title so literal.

    I was thinking more along the lines of Rinse Dream... but Corman's a step in the right direction. ;)

  6. I was thinking of Corman's philosophy, "if it's on the poster, it's in the movie." :-)

    Word Verification: spertl

    An X-Rated Pokemon?