The Secret Lives of Dorks

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
The Secret Lives of Dorks Movie Poster Image
Tedious teen comedy hits every high-school-clique cliché.
  • PG-13
  • 2013
  • 92 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Amid the crude content is the fact that Payton eventually learns to be comfortable with his identity as a self-proclaimed dork -- and realizes that other people will like him just the way he is.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Payton and Samantha both know they're dorks, and eventually they realize that there's nothing wrong with being who they really are. But Payton does get himself in trouble when he tries to be someone he's not, and there's a lot of clique-based stereotyping (jocks, cheerleaders, nerds, etc.).

Violence

High school bullies threaten other students, and there's some pushing and shoving.

Sex

Guys discuss girls frequently and make references to their appearances ("she's hot"), and there are a few discussions about fooling around, including talk of reaching "second base." In a very uncomfortable conversation with a date's parents, a teenage boy ends up discussing both the girl's breasts and her mother's breasts. A girl is shown in a skimpy bathing suit in a fantasy sequence. Some kissing, and one scene takes place at a male stripper show. Accidental groping.

Language

Language includes "s--t," "butt," and "ass."

Consumerism

Many references to well-known comic book heroes, including Spider-Man and Superman. A football-loving dad is obsessed with former NFL coach Mike Ditka, who makes a few brief appearances.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One clique behaves like stoners.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Secret Lives of Dorks is a high school comedy that trades on all the classic teen clique cliches. There are the jocks, the cheerleaders, the stoners, and, of course, the titular dorks. Plenty of obvious jokes are made at the expense of each social group -- the dumb football player, the ditzy cheerleaders, the socially awkward nerds -- and there's some swearing ("s--t," "ass," etc.), a few crude sexual references, and some kissing, as well as plenty of physical jokes, including flatulence and accidental groping.

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What's the story?

Payton (Gaelan Connell) has lusted after Carrie (Riley Voelkel) for years, but she's way out of his league. She's a cheerleader, and he's a dork, and -- in THE SECRET LIVES OF DORKS -- it's clear that there's little mingling between the high school social classes. Too bad Payton can't see that fellow dork Samantha (Vanessa Marano) is crazy about him. Carrie, who's not nearly as dumb as she acts, realizes that the best way to rid herself of this persistent and unwanted suitor is to teach Payton how to actually interact with girls and get him to ask Samantha on a date.

Is it any good?

The Secret Lives of Dorks trades on the same rigid social structure seen in so many other high school comedies -- and all the same tired cliches. Will the socially awkward nerd ever find the courage to ask a girl on a date? Will he learn to be comfortable with who he is, instead of trying to be someone he's not? Of course he will. Does he get teased mercilessly by the football players? Obviously. Is there anything original here? Not really.

The film does introduce a few clever bits, including some fun animated sequences and a recurring joke about former NFL coach Mike Ditka, but that can't make up for a plot that has no surprises.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how The Secret Lives of Dorks portrays the high school experience. Is it accurate? Believable? Does a high school comedy have to be either to succeed? Why or why not?

  • How does the way the movie depicts the school's various social groups conform to the standard images seen in so many other teen comedies? Do you consider it stereotyping?

  • What role does sex/talking about sex play in the story? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • Who's a better match for Payton -- Samantha or Carrie? Who does he prefer, and why?

Movie details

For kids who love high school stories

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