A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that they'll have to do some course correction after their teens see this movie -- which they'll all want to do. If your kids think this is how to relate to the opposite sex, they'll never find true love. The almost constant sexual references -- both visual (mostly girls in scant costumes) and verbal (slang for genitals and activities) -- are hormonally age appropriate but not recommended as healthy teen interaction. Sketchy behaviors revolve around a high school basketball star who dates multiple girls; the girls seek revenge by humiliating him in public. Their strategies involve crass gender stereotypes (girls get the boy to behave and dress like a "girl," assuming this is a bad thing). Characters drink alcohol.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE, John (Jesse Metcalfe) is stereotypical big man on campus, basketball star, and pathological cheater. Three of John's most recent squeezes -- head cheerleader Heather (Ashanti), blond techie Beth (Sophia Bush), and dark-haired-vegan Carrie (Arielle Kebbel) -- decide to teach him a lesson. So, they recruit new student Kate (Brittany Snow) as bait. Apparently damaged by her "totally hot" mom's (Jenny McCarthy) bad experiences with men, Kate agrees to seduce John and then dump him harshly. Obviously, this is a bad idea. Deploying the latest technology (bra-mounted cameras, mics, and monitors), not to mention mega-doses of estrogen, the girls repeatedly confront their target's strangely immutable popularity: When John cries in public, girls love his sensitivity; when he dons a thong, boys line up to wear them too, as it demonstrates their own avant-garde taste.
Is it any good?
Beginning with the fact that every "student" is visibly too old to be in high school, this film is out of joint. Its plot is drawn from any number of sources, including Mean Girls and The Perfect Man, with a dash of Heathers as well. The result is that Betty Thomas' movie strains to be sweet but also cynical, without satisfying on either count.
The main characters constantly indulge in sex-chatter and mildly trashy behavior, giddily exploring their deceitful powers. (Ostensibly, this is what it means to be an adult, as Kate's mother's experiences suggest.) Kate does meet an honest boy she likes but treats him badly as she pursues her aim to "get" John. The fact that the guy is John's younger brother seems an unnecessary complication: oh the insidiousness of high school comedies! Though everyone supposedly learns the value of honesty, the film closes with the song that spells out their priorities: "I want you to want me." The poor students in this high school are caught up, no matter which way they turn.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether this film presents a realistic depiction of cheating boyfriends and vengeful girlfriends. And what about revenge in general -- is it ever acceptable? Does John deserve to be put in his place? And while we're on reality checks -- whose mom looks like Jenny McCarthy? More seriously, though, what about the relationship between the mother and daughter? Does that bring up any hot spots with your own teens?
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