I recall downloading an R-rated trailer for Not Another Teen Movie an absurdly long time before it was slated to hit theaters, and I somehow convinced myself that this was going to be the funniest movie ever. Yes, I'm prone to hyperbole, even when I'm talking to myself. It's probably worth noting that I had convinced myself the same with a trailer for Scary Movie a year earlier, and, if I remember correctly, I wound up ranking that as my least favorite movie of 2000. That is from someone who, incidentally, saw Urban Legends: Final Cut theatrically that same year and went on to purchase it on DVD. Terrifying indeed. Anyway, I was unsure, based on that trailer, if my enthusiasm would carry over for the many months until Not Another Teen Movie would splash across the big screen. It's not the laugh riot I was anticipating, but those forced to deal with the same secret shame I've endured for so many years will probably get a kick out of it.
The plot is, of course, a mismash of nearly every recognizable teen movie from the early days of John Hughes through Bring It On. A summary is probably superfluous, but I'll give it a go anyway. After The Nasty Cheerleader dumps him for The Beautiful Weirdo, The Popular Jock makes a bet with The Token Black Guy and The Cocky Blonde Guy that he can turn even the most hopeless case into this year's prom queen. The Pretty Ugly Girl is secretly selected as the lucky lady, much to the chagrin of The Obsessed Best Friend that's been lusting after her for years. The Pretty Ugly Girl's brother, The Desperate Virgin, pursues The Perfect Girl, all part of a get-laid-before-graduation pact he made with The Wannabe and The Sensitive Guy. His friends have their eye on The Foreign Exchange Student, who's being shown around campus by none other than The Pretty Ugly Girl. The Popular Jock has enough trouble with The Pretty Ugly Girl, all the while attempting to keep The Stupid Fat Guy from suffering yet another concussion, that he turns to his sister, The Cruelest Girl, for some desperately needed assistance. The Cruelest Girl has plans of her own for The Popular Jock, though, and perhaps she's thinking of him while swapping spit with The Undercover Reporter. That just about covers everyone on the packaging, or all the humans, anyway.
Not Another Teen Movie was almost universally lambasted by critics, and all of the reviews I read upon its theatrical release last December were so intensely negative that I shied away from seeing it on the big screen. Though I can certainly see why it was so disliked, I have to say that I enjoyed Not Another Teen Movie. Much of this, I'd imagine, is due to my inexplicable and mildly embarrassing attraction to the movies it spoofs. A genuine love of the genre is probably necessary to fully appreciate Not Another Teen Movie, which casts its net towards two or three times as many flicks as Scary Movie. Though most heavily centered around the class of '99 (She's All That, Varsity Blues, 10 Things I Hate About You, Cruel Intentions, American Pie) and the oeuvre of John Hughes (Pretty In Pink, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club), more subtle references are made to movies like Better Off Dead, Fast Times At Ridgemont High, Can't Buy Me Love, and even not-teen-movie fare like Almost Famous. There are probably somewhere around thirty movies referenced in some way throughout the course of its 89 minutes, and I've seen and adore a good 95% of them. That's not an exceptionally difficult task to have accomplished, but part of the fun was picking out some of the less obvious jabs, many of which appear in the background or in an offhand line of dialogue.
Aside from a few cameos that'll go unnamed, only a few of the faces of the eighteen quadraseptazillion cast members looked familiar: Samm Levine (Freaks and Geeks), Ron Lester (another Freaks and Geeks alum, practically reprising his role from Varsity Blues), Jaime Pressly (Can't Hardly Wait), Cody McMains (Bring It On), and Randy Quaid (the Vacation series). Though most of the cast members were either relative unknowns or didn't look all that recognizable (Party of Five's Lacey Chabert comes to mind), literally every single one of them does a phenomenal job. Unlike Scary Movie, where the characters were way too cartoonish, the cast plays it pretty straight, despite all the bizarre things going on around them. There's an appropriate amount of exaggeration -- Eric Christian Olsen as the Cocky Blonde Guy and Sam Huntington parodying American Pie's Chris Klein are easily the most effective in this respect -- but no one's as wildly over-the-top as, say, the extraordinarily irritating Shorty in Scary Movie. The standout in Not Another Teen Movie is stunning newcomer Chyler Leigh, who's currently unrecognizable in her starring role as Tuesday on That '80s Show. Some readers may have seen Leigh previously in Kickboxing Academy, which is apparently on Showtime or one of its sister channels at any given time.
Not Another Teen Movie marks the feature-film directorial debut of Joel Gallen, who's probably best known for the segments he directed for various MTV award shows, my favorite featuring Ben Stiller and a handicapped Andy Dick as the Backstreet Boyz. His experience with this sort of parody is put to good use, and the roster of writers he brought to the table seems to have the same affection for these sorts of movies as I do. There actually is something resembling a plot and a natural progression to the "story", not seeming entirely like a series of random sketches loosely strung together. The extremely large cast is managed well, with an effective balance being struck between the more prominent characters and the variety of subplots. None of the fifteen or so characters seem superfluous or too briefly touched upon. Not Another Teen Movie is quite a bit funnier than Scary Movie, whose success is almost certainly the only reason this was produced. The gross-out sequences are kept to a minimum. There's really only a single instance I can recall offhand of visual toilet humor (literally involving a toilet), and it's made all the more hysterical by cutting back and forth to a professor who rants at length about how true comedy is clever wordplay, not fart jokes. Though there is quite a bit of raunchy dialogue and some mildly extreme (paradoxical, I know) visuals, Gallen and company appear to be aware that it takes more than the mere presence of penises and rivers of bodily fluids to elicit a laugh.
High art it's not, but Not Another Teen Movie is practically required viewing for rabid fans of the genre it spoofs. Columbia/Tri-Star has assembled an obscenely loaded special edition DVD release that makes an extended rental or purchase all the more worthwhile.
Video: As is invariably the case with a new theatrical release from a major studio, this DVD release of Not Another Teen Movie is enhanced for widescreen televisions and free of any notable blemishes. Though some extraordinarily light grain is visible in parts of the $16 million production, the image remains crisp and detailed throughout, practically overflowing with color. The large amount of supplemental material doesn't appear to have had an effect on the quality of the presentation, and no flaws of any note were spotted aside from some minor haloing on the beach, just before the musical number.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is more active than the vast majority of teen movies and comedies, making frequent use of the surround channels. The soundtrack consists of numerous covers of '80s tracks, and though they're delivered in a little too rapid-fire a succession in the first fifteen minutes, they do sound great. Dialogue, to my amazement, at times sounded a little strained, though perhaps this is a factor of the film's limited budget.
Along with a French audio track are subtitles in both English and French.
Supplements: There are a pair of commentary tracks. The first is with director Joel Gallen and co-writer Mike Bender, who contribute a really great, laid-back discussion. They offer an excellent balance of technical notes, getting as detailed as pointing out a scene that was digitally tweaked due to the overcast sky and how the magic of editing made a couple of wonky effect sequences appear (almost) seamless. Gallen and Bender are exceedingly honest about what works and what doesn't, and they also touch on how the script changed from the original draft that preceded their involvement and how precious little of that material remains in the final cut. They reveal that the toilet sequence was, by the way, the only portion of any significance that made it through. That's not really a surprise, since the remainder of the humor doesn't really trot down that path.
The second track brings together actors Chyler Leigh, Chris Evans, Jaime Pressly, Eric Jungmann, and Eric Christian Olsen. I guess it's one of those "you had to be there" types of things, with most of the runtime dedicated to giggling and talking about how great all the actors were. A couple of interesting tidbits are tossed out, such as "Freddie Prinze Jr." in the opening sequence being played by Bring It On star Nathan West, who also happens to be Leigh's fiancée. Also notable is a pretty significant continuity error with the character of Richard Vernon that I sadly didn't notice until it was expressly pointed out.
Another screen-specific extra is the subtitle track, a la Ghostbusters and Bring It On, with attractive pop-up-video style notes. It's somewhat redundant for those who have listened to the director/writer commentary and watched the featurettes, as much of the character information, references, and background gags like Harry Dean Stadium and the well-loved lettuce have already been pointed out elsewhere. It has its moments, though, and it may be worth running at the same time as the less interesting actors' commentary. During some brief nudity when the door to the girls' locker room opens, a message pops up saying "press the pause button now", for instance, and it has some fun while citing examples of token black guys from other teen movies.
Also included are three featurettes, totally right at half an hour of material. The first, "Best Dressed", deals with costume and production designs, as well as the challenges encountered due to the film's limited budget. "Class Clown" takes a look at the various special effects sequences and features quite a bit of behind-the-scenes footage. Not Another Teen Movie was Joel Gallen's first feature-length film as well as the first starring role for several of the actors in the movie, and this is touched upon in the featurette "My Freshman Year". Hats off to Columbia/Tri-Star for resisting the temptation to repurpose EPK material and providing some really great, original featurettes.
There are 18 deleted and extended scenes presented in anamorphic widescreen, most of which were purged to tighten up the pacing. Memorable scenes lifted from Varsity Blues and Never Been Kissed wind up here, along with a spoof of Save The Last Dance. Pretty much everything was rightly removed, not standing out as particularly funny, though I am more fond of the original ending.
The unrated music video of Marilyn Manson's cover-of-a-cover of "Tainted Love" incorporates some of the cast, and Chyler Leigh's turn as a scantily-clad goth chick makes her spread in Stuff Magazine seem almost tame by comparison. A few minutes of footage from MTV's "Making The Video" are tacked onto the beginning. There's a bit of nudity that obviously didn't make it onto basic cable, but other than that, I'm not sure how different this version is from what's been making the rounds on MTV.
"The Yearbook", continuing the high school theme, is an animated photo gallery, featuring candid shots of the cast along with some production stills. "Meet The Cast" is a series of 30-second TV spots highlighting seven individual characters. The cast is also featured in an auditions montage that runs around three and a half minutes. A trivia game incorporates footage of the cast and crew tossing out questions, along with videotaped responses to each and every answer. I missed four. (sniffles)
Joel Gallen's short film Car Ride is also on the disc, starring Jenny McCarthy in one joke that's been stretched out for a few minutes. Rounding out the supplements are trailers for Not Another Teen Movie, The New Guy (with Eliza Dushku!), The Animal, Saving Silverman, Big Daddy, and Loser. All save Big Daddy are presented in anamorphic widescreen.
Conclusion: Not Another Teen Movie accomplishes, at least for me, precisely what it sets out to do. It's a funny send-up of the teen comedies and romances that flooded theaters in the late '90s, and, unlike the abysmal Scary Movie, this is actually something I can see myself revisiting several times in the coming months. An extensive amount of quality supplemental material has been packed on, further adding to the disc's replay value. This DVD is sure to be marked down from its $27.96 list price to somewhere in the $17 range at the loss leaders on April 30th. This is the sort of film that would probably deserve a rental first, but at the right price, it's worth a purchase sight-unseen. Recommended.