John Tucker Must Die
Director(s): Betty Thomas
Writer(s): Jeff Lowell
Cast: Jesse Metcalfe, Brittany Snow, Ashanti, Sophia Bush, Arielle Kebbel, Penn Badgley and Jenny McCarthy
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Jul 28, 2006 - Wide
When reviewing a film like John Tucker Must Die, it might be easy to dismiss me as not being a part of the target market. After all, I’m not a texting-obsessed 14-year-old girl nor the poor acne-prone guy she dragged to the theatre in hopes he’d make it to first base, wherever that base may be for this generation.
But I’ve laughed at 10 Things I Hate About You. I’ve enjoyed, sometimes painfully, the remembrances of high school, or at least of high school movies, that a weekend viewing of Can’t Buy Me Love brings and I liked Mean Girls, which I guess stands out more because of the writing of Tina Fey.
John Tucker Must Die is one of those formulaic teen comedies where all the best stuff (and that’s on a relative scale) can be found in the film’s trailer. This only leads to the disappoint of realizing you could have spent 2 minutes with the storyline instead of 87.
The storyline? Stop me if you’ve heard this before: John Tucker (Desperate Housewives’ Jesse Metcalfe) is the all-American sports hero in the high school. The popular, great at basketball hunk that earns the tired accolade that all women want to be with him and all men want to be like him. Tucker’s triple-timing with the ladies, dating cheerleader Heather (Ashanti), pretty A student Carrie (Arielle Kebbel), and student activist Beth (Sophia Bush). When the school wallflower, Kate (Brittany Snow), points out that the girls should be dealing with him instead of fighting with each other, they hatch a plan to humiliate him, but everything they throw at him only seems to make him more popular at school. They up the ante by deciding to make Kate over so that they can try to break his heart like he broke theirs. As the large sign on the movie plot highway indicates, this can only mean that he’ll develop real feelings for Kate, while she begins to doubt continuing with the scheme. Toss in Tucker’s more sensitive brother (Penn Badgley in a messy Heath Ledger haircut) and you know there will be some lessons learned and misunderstandings before the end credits role.
The actors do their best with the material they’re given but this isn’t the sort of film where you can talk about the nuances of their performances. Ashanti, Arielle and Sophia are all pretty but, as in most of the films in this genre, it’s the unpopular girl who actually is more attractive in personality and appearance and Brittany Snow is no exception. Metcalfe is also handsome in that high school sports fashion, but his character is also one that we believe is popular because we’re told he is.
The film also doesn’t have the edge that the title suggests. You’d think that with two characters named after darker teen films (Carrie and Heather) the story would have a bit of bite or a dark twist, but John Tucker Must Die sits firmly in the formulaic teen comedy zone. This is a grocery list film. Not in the sense that it ticks off a list of expected plot elements, but in the sense that you start thinking about what you need to buy after the movie lets out.