JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE (2006)
Starring Jesse Metcalf, Brittany Snow, Ashanti, Sophie Bush, Arielle Krebbel, Penn Badgley, Jenny McCarthy, Fatso-Fasano, Kevin McNulty, Patricia Drake, Jeffrey Ballard, Taylor Kitsch, Steve Bacic, Dean Wray and Jon Cuthbert.
Screenplay by Jeff Lowell.
Directed by Betty Thomas.
Distributed by Baxter Films. 101 minutes. Rated PG-13.
Have you ever watched one of those dumb daytime talk shows in which a group of desperate women yell each other down and bitch-slap each other over some smirking loser of a guy? They argue about whose man he is, who keeps him happier in the kitchen and the bedroom, who had him first and how he claims each is the only one. All the while, the guy sits in the middle of the cat fight, a weird look on his face which is a mixture of embarrassment and pride (okay, mostly pride), watching these stupid women taking all their anger out on each other when he is the one cheating on them.
John Tucker Must Die is a sanitized, Hollywood version of this Jerry Springer staple. The principals are much more beautiful than the talk show losers (then again, who isn’t?), they are smarter (again, who isn’t?) and funnier (ditto) – and yet they fall deep into the same basic trap as the toothless trailer trash.
Anything dirty or unseemly is bleeped away, in an attempt to hold onto this film’s PG-13 tweeny-bopper audience. Instead of a scratch fight, this film ends up with a food fight. (Note to screenwriters: No food fight has been funny since National Lampoon’s Animal House in 1978 – and that one was only humorous because they cut away seconds into it.)
Then again, this movie really never has the courage of its convictions. It lures you in with a brave, disturbing title John Tucker Must Die. However, no sign of this disturbed passion is on display in the actual film. Three spurned lovers do not want to kill John, they want to embarrass him.
The funny thing is the movie mostly works, probably because it has some very likable young stars, a charmingly offbeat manner and a surprisingly open-minded world view.
Jesse Metcalf (Eva Longoria’s hunkish gardener in Desperate Housewives) is the title character who isn’t going to die anytime soon. He is handsome, charming, rich, lucky, the local basketball star and a notorious lothario. Women throw themselves at him, so he takes advantage of the attention.
The conflict comes when three very different, very popular girls from separate cliques, find out they are all dating lover boy. There is Carrie – the smart, adorable blonde who is involved in all school activities (Arielle Krebbel of American Pie: Band Camp and Gilmore Girls gives this character much more depth than is written.) Sophie Bush (of One Tree Hill) is very funny as the local slut, Beth. Pop star Ashanti offers attitude to spare but little else in her role of Heather, a beautiful-but-stuck-up head cheerleader. Her acting is about as accomplished as her singing is. You can take that statement any way you want.
Instead of blaming him, they all lay into each other. They finally join together when they meet Kate, a shy new girl (Brittany Snow of American Dreams) who sees through John’s rap. The four decide that they will destroy Tucker’s reputation and break his heart by turning Kate into the perfect girl then having her dump him flat. Problem is she is inexperienced and may be vulnerable to his charms. Double problem is she actually kind of likes John’s outcast little brother, who obviously has a crush on her – however unlike his brother he will never, it seems, have the self-confidence to let her know.
This leads to a funny if a little predictable series of scams designed to shame John. However, due to his unassailable luck, Tucker is always able to turn the tide and make it all work out for him. In an interesting twist, in the end the movie allows for the possibility that John Tucker was actually always more emotionally connected and kind than the girls who targeted him; who come off looking superficial. (8/06)
Copyright ©2006 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: July 21, 2006.