03 March 2009

American Teen, Fired Up

American Teen
starring Hannah Bailey, Colin Clemens, Geoff Haase, Megan Krizmanich, Mitch Reinholt, Jake Tusing, Ali Wikalinska,
directed by Nanette Burstein
2008, 95 mins., Rated PG-13

***1/2 (out of ****)

American Teen
was recieving quite the positive reviews when it was hitting film festivals, and that coupled with the subject matter peaked my interest. Unfortunately, the Powers That Be thought that the flick wasn't worth releasing theatrically (same thing happened with Bill Mahr's Religulous - had to wait for DVD), so the only way non gray-haired Academy members could get their hands on it would be for the eventual DVD release. And of course, the distributor had to complicate matters by making it a TARGET exclusive. I, however, using my brilliant intellect, devised a plan to use the ever-faithful Netflix to get a copy! And indeed, my search did not fail me - a copy of American Teen was readily avaliable to send! A quick add to my #1 spot, the DVD arrived two days later, and boy was it worth the wait - in fact, my only gripe with the entire movie is that I wish it ran a little longer, like Curious Case of Benjamin Button length.

The documentary follows five high school seniors in Indiana - and these kids follow high school stereotypes to the T (I think that's the correct expression; if not, you get the point...I hope). There's the socially awkward nerd Colin, who wants to connect with people and feel involved when he doesn't contradictorally want to be left alone; Hannah, the artistic girl who does "her own thing" regardless of what anyone else thinks, and has a difficult decision ahead of her; Geoff, the big-time basketball player who needs to do brilliantly to impress college scouts for a scholarship, 'cuz his family don't have any money to send him anywhere else; and finally, Megan, the Queen Bitch who says "like" to many times and is trying to follow her familys path by attending Notre Dame. From the beginning of the year to graduation, the documentary showcases the full, unedited truth of high school! Dun, dun, dun...

The sad thing is is that I, and I'm sure everyone else, knew or knows people exactly like them. As for me, I would probably be labeled the Geeky kid, but I have never been anywhere near as socially inept as Colin. Although he seems to have dropped the barrier a bit since the film's release (I'm getting this amazing insight from watching the special features - he seems more relaxed), I felt a little sorry for the kid here and there. But then suddenly, he does or says something around someone so not cool that I'm just smacking my own head in frustration. And the funny part is, the dude got to snog, like two girls in the movie! There's hope for me yet...

Anyway, there's times when I'm watching this truly captivating documentary and I think everything's all performed, because what transpires onscreen correlates with teen dramadies to a scary degree. It's amazing that even throughout all these decades, things change, but a very vast majority of things remain ever-so-suckily the same. I think Molly Ringwold said something similar to this insightful statement in a bonus feature documentary...in which case, she stole it from me...

The worst part of the documentary is that the people who come out not looking all that great aren't the kids themselves, but the parents. Geoff's parents are far too harsh and demanding, while Megan's parents attempt to use reverse psychology (I can't believe that they mean what they say, it simply doesn't sound right) to say they actually don't care if Megan gets into Note Dame, as long as she's happy, blah, blah, blah; and we all - including her - know it's bull. Hannah's grandparents or what have you [and her father] actually come off as decent people who genuinelly want the best for their little girl. Strangely enough, they're the only ones who seem the most honest and real.

American Teen is a really cool documentary, and easily recommendable for all viewers. Chances are you'll relate to it more than you'd think, and probably like it more because of that. The entire flick is captivating, and it's literally amazing you're watching this real-life, TV-like soap opera evolve before your eyes. Once the film's over, if you're like me, you'll be heading straight to the bonus material to find out more. It features a short 'what are you up to now', but nothing too stellar.

Fired Up!
starring Eric Christian Olsen, Nicholas D'Agosto, Sarah Roemer
written by Freedom Jones
directed by Will Gluck
2009, 90 mins., Rated PG-13

*** (out of ****)

I admit my incentive to see Fired Up! was Ms. Sarah Roemer, who heated up the screen opposite Shia LaBeouf in Disturbia two years ago. But - well, much to my surprise, it ended up being a pretty funny movie that was well worth my hard-earned dollars. And just because all the commercials are showing the cheerleading aspect of the flick, I assure you, the movie's not all about cheerleading. It's not Bring It On; in fact, the movie even takes the step to show Bring It On outside as a "cheer event" (which elicits a nice laugh as all the cheerleaders recite every line). This movie is about two players having fun, and, of course, learning a little something about themselves. So, you may ask, if the movie is such a cliché , why bother with it? The very simple answer is: I haven't had this much fun watching a movie in a while. Well, at least since Sex Drive.

Nick (Olsen) and Shawn (D'Agosto) have pretty much had their way with the entire female student body at school, so they set their sights to cheerleading camp. Carly (Roemer), the resident cheerleading captain, isn't all that happy to have the two sausages on the team, but she's surprised to find that the two actually help improve morale and techniques. Of course, it's all for show - well, at least for Nick: he just wants to shag and get out, but Shawn's beginning to actually get into everything, and (spoiler) falls for Carly. And not in a "I must shag you" type of way, but in a "I have butterflies in my stomach" way. Problem: Carly has a powerful older boyfriend who wants to see these guys kicked out, and this could stand in the way of a Shawn and Carly pairing. Shit will hit the proverbial fan before this intense conflict is resolved.

Perhaps the reason I dug this film so much is the simple concept that - as the commentators at the IMDB boards suggest - I went into it not expecting anything resembling decency, so when I actually laugh here and there, I'm under the impression it was good. I'm not about to rule that out, but it's a week later [since I saw the flick], and I still think about moments in the film that elicited a laugh, so I can firmly say that I deny that assertion [well, at least on my end; maybe you think it's a big pile of dog poopey ain retrospect]. The fact is, it's funny, and one helluva good time.

There's plenty of jokes, and keep in mind, these are jokes that actually work. Semi-Pro this is not! [c'mon, that comedy didn't have one frakkin' funny bone in its spineless body!] To watch these guys transform from womanizers to actually getting into this whole cheerleading business - well, it's a blast. And Nick's constant attempts to nail the head coaches' wife is truly priceless, and all pays off in a big way towards it's inevitable but nonetheless enjoyable conclusion.

A funny running gag is how many times they can create new words to substitute male and female genitalia. Typically, I'd get annoyed when some joke like this comes up because I don't understand why films can't come right out and say the damn words, but it's so bloody amusing to listen to these variations, it's instantly forgiven. If I could happen to remember half of them, they would be stuck in my vocabulary. And finally, I just want to give a shout-out to one of the songs in the movie, which kept repeating: "Stop being a dick!" [this was after when Nick and Shawn were "found out", and they're on their way home in shame]. It's so dumb it's funny. Of course, some of this humor may appeal only to idiot adolescents such as myself...

If Fired Up! is a sign of how 2009's comedy slate is going to be, then count me mildly excited. Sure, it's not fantastic, and it definitely adheres to the 'by-the-book' syndrome nearly all comedies in the galaxy are prone to following, but it acknowledges what it is and has as much fun with it as possible - and that's admirable.

1 comment:

thebonebreaker said...

I was actually curious about both of these films ~ glad you reviewed them, and I am glad to hear that they are both worthwhile ~ to the Netflix Queue they go. . . :-)