A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this comedy has some worthwhile things to say about issues like popularity and bullying among teens, but viewers have to sit through a lot of unsavory behavior by a clique of mean girls before these themes become obvious. Teens cope with personal insecurities and social pressures, and stereotypes ("geeks," "jocks," "in crowd") are rampant throughout the story. Girls use their sexuality to hook and manipulate guys (promising sex to maintain their interest, for instance); physical contact includes a steamy make-out scene with kissing and some upper-body fondling. There's a fair amount of salty language ("bitch," "hell," "damn"), and bullying takes both traditional forms -- like intimidation -- and cyber translations, like emailing compromising pictures to embarrass someone. That said, the movie's messages are overwhelmingly positive, reminding teens of the power of self-confidence, individuality, and standing up against peer pressure.
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What's the story?
Socialite Amber Pollock (Cassie Scerbo) has devoted her high-school career to topping the popularity charts; the only thing left on her to-do list is being named prom queen. Thanks to careful planning -- and some crafty manipulation -- on her part, the crown is as good as hers, but a freak accident on prom night ends her life and leaves her staring down a fiery eternity because of her lifelong selfishness. When a heavenly interceder (Tim Gunn) offers Amber a one-way ticket to heaven if she can change a downtrodden classmate's social fortune, she's thrilled ... until she learns that her charge is mousy Lisa Sommers (Lindsey Shaw), who's hardly a school standout. Though Lisa balks at the idea of stepping out of the shadows, Amber wins her over by promising that her new status will catch the eye of her longtime crush, Nick (Chris Zylka). As the pieces fall into place and Lisa's fortune begins to change, Amber starts to see her own callous behavior in a new light and must decide whether the reward is worth the cost of dooming Lisa to a similar fate. Meanwhile, Lisa's left to choose between her new popularity and the life she left behind.
Is it any good?
This enjoyable comedy delivers a worthwhile story about overcoming insecurities and battling peer pressure. Popularity and social ambition are hardly new plot points for a teen-geared movie, and TEEN SPIRIT's themes of tolerance, respect, and self-confidence won't come as a surprise to anyone who tunes in. In fact, there are few surprises to be found in this movie -- but, happily, that doesn't stand in the way of its positive message. Amber and Lisa are a delightful odd couple, and their unlikely relationship puts both girls in a position to learn something positive about friendship and respect. Their actions aren't always saintly, but the good news is that they learn their lesson, change their behavior, and use the experience to inspire others to do the same.
Of course, a story like this isn't believable without some stereotypes like "jocks" and "geeks," but teens will understand the role that these types play in illustrating behavior within the different student groups. Sexuality is prominent as it relates to popularity (girls flaunt their bodies to turn guys' heads) and as it's used to maintain a guy's interest, and there's some passionate kissing and fondling in a scene or two. All of this paints a fairly extreme picture of high school life for tweens, but teens will be able to weed through the fantasy, enjoy the humor, and pick out the positive aspects of this very funny movie.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about social status. Teens: How much does social status weigh on your mind? Is popularity a big deal among your friends/classmates? How is a someone's popularity decided? How does it factor into things like student groups and school elections?
Have you ever faced peer pressure? How does it feel to have to choose between what's popular and what you believe in? What techniques can you use to cope with situations like this? How do friendship and self-confidence relate to this issue?
Is bullying something that concerns you? Have you ever been bullied? How does traditional bullying (name-calling, teasing, etc.) compare to cyberbullying? Is one style more or less hurtful than the other? What rules exist to protect you from bullies? Do you think they're effective?
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