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Triple Dog

Wellspring // PG-13 // September 21, 2010
List Price: $26.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Adam Tyner | posted September 18, 2010 | E-mail the Author
Yeah, that's kinda how I feel too.
Eve (Alexia Fast) is ringing in her Sweet Sixteen with a slumber party. Maybe you're wondering what's on the docket tonight. Pillow fights? Pedicures? Macramé? Sudoku? Reading each other's blogs outloud...y'know, like theatre? (Seriously, that's lobbed out as an idea in here.) No dice. How 'bout a round of Triple Dog instead?

I know what you're thinking! Triple Dog. Nope, it's not a skating maneuver. Yikes! And no, you're thinking of the Reverse Cowgirl, and this isn't that kind of flick. No, Triple Dog is a game. Think "Truth or Dare" minus the "Truth". The rules go something like this:
  1. Everyone gives a dare, and everyone gets a dare.
  2. You can pick who hands you your dare, but once someone's been selected, they're off the table.
  3. If you don't follow through with your dare, out come the electric clippers to go all Natalie Portman's Shaved Head on you.
  4. The dare-ee can also reverse the challenge back on the dare-er. If you do that, though, and the dare-er goes through with it, BZZZZZZ. Sorry, that's supposed to be an electric clippers impersonation. I'll keep working on it.
  5. At the beginning of the game, everyone throws all their money and stuff into a big pile. Whoever's voted as following through on the best dare wins the pot. The loser...yeah. Shaved head. It's kind of a recurring theme here.
Our contestants...? Well, there's Eve, the birthday girl. Sarah (Emily Tennant) is the endlessly adorable and devoutly religious girl who'd rather be knitting right about now. That's student council president Cecily (Janel Parrish) over in the corner there. Liza (Scout Taylor-Compton) is the oddball outsider who's doing the whole Ally-Sheedy-in-The Breakfast Club thing here...y'know, the unappreciated, cute, quirky girl with unbrushed hair covering half her face who's sneaking treats to her pet rat every couple of minutes. There's also Nina (Carly McKillip), who's...I don't know. Blonde. Characterization's not this movie's strong suit. Last up to the plate is Chapin (Brittany Robertson). She's a skater girl who looks like she's
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nicked her fashion sense from Poochie. You know she's extreme because she skateboards down the hall of her school, man, and she cocks her cap at an angle. She's newly-transferred over this way after getting expelled from her last school. It's a whole thing, and even just getting to this sleepover was kind of a hassle since Chapin is grounded at home for throwing a couple of haymakers at...oops! Liza. Drama. Uncomfortable. Oh, and the game is Chapin's idea in the first place in case you're keeping track.

So, yeah. Streaking. Public urination. Shoplifting. Fooling around with Whisper, who it turns out is a cute boy and not one of the ponies from Horseland. Faking a seizure at a karaoke joint. Okay, I'll give you points for creativity for that last one. Along with these wacky shenanigans where everybody debases themselves and learns a valuable lesson in the process, Triple Dog also weaves in a secret Chapin's been carrying for the past five months. A girl from her old school leapt off a bridge to her death, and...well, was it suicide or was she pushed? What does all this have to do with Chapin being expelled? Will history...::gulp!::...repeat itself?

I'll be nice and start with the good stuff first. The girls are pretty ridiculously cute straight across the board, and even though some of the acting in the trailer made me cringe, it all seems fine in context. I'm always a sucker for seeing the same event retold from a bunch of Rashomon-y different perspectives, and there's plenty of that here. I like how one of these stories early on is visually reshaped midstream as the girls bicker about what really happened. That's...kind of where the praise ends, though.

Look, the flick's tagline is "I DARE U 2 PLAY", and the cover art looks like something snipped out of a Claire's catalog. You could write the review just with a quick peek at the box art and not be all that far off. Triple Dog is trying way, way, way too hard to be edgy and cool. Chapin really does come across as an R-rated Poochie. If she's not riding her skateboard, she's clutching it in her arms. Whoever penned her dialogue is so out of touch with everything, ever, that she says "hella lame" and uses "I'm peacing" as a verb (in not-teenager speak, this translates to "I'm leaving"). You're also treated to "chillax!" and "what the shiz?" used not at all ironically. Its biggest comedic setpiece drops the girls in an Asian karaoke bar with a really aggressive stereotype spouting off sterling dialogue like "Amblance, please! I have a kid in my ressaraunt, she having a see-zure! Salad? No, not food poisoning! See-zure!" All he's missing are buckteeth and a gong. The dialogue overall sounds like Juno if Diablo Cody had been hit in the head with a shovel. To set up a case-in-point, Liza's dare is to secretly hide out in Eve's brother's closet till midnight. ...and
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"Ow, she bit me! Get the hell out of my closet."
"What? Yes! Get out."
"No, no, no to infinity. I win."
"This is unbelievable! You come into my house, hide in my closet, and now you wanna bite my friends?"
"Yeah, that's right."
"I'm calling my mom."
"Call her, baby!"
"What was that?"
"I said call her, you big baby. Oh, baby needs mommy? Boo-hoo."
It's Picture your mom spouting off Kris Kross lyrics, maybe with a few F-bombs sprinkled around in there for good measure, and that's about as hip and edgy as Triple Dog gets. The girls generally settle for archetypes over personality, and there's not much of a reason to care about anything that's going on. The pace is agonizingly slow, especially those long stretches between dares where it's reams of dialogue and waiting for Liza to inevitably fall in love. Oh, man, and the sheer volume of Rock Band...I'm shaking my head as I'm typing that if it gives you a visual. The kids these days like Rock Band, right? Rock Band's cool. Do kids still say "cool"?

The last trailer I came across for Triple Dog painted it as more of a suspense/thriller, and that really doesn't come into play at all. If I have to spout off genres and use lots of slashes, it's more of a coming-of-age comedy/drama where teenagers engage in madcap shenanigans and learn handy lessons like "hey, outsider, don't be afraid to let people in so they can see how wonderful you really are!" and "hey, repressed girl, it's okay to cut loose every once in a while!" that you can see coming from a couple of time zones away. You have an ensemble cast of girls in their late teens/early twenties right in front of you. Have them tackle a rewrite or two. There are brief sparks of energy and imagination, but mostly Triple Dog limps around lifelessly. There just isn't a hook: bland characters, reams and reams of awkwardly "hip" dialogue, a completely unengaging mystery, and no real stakes to anything that happens. It's watchable enough for me to say Rent It if you're interested anyway, but buying it sight-unseen...? Not if you triple-dog-dared me. Geez. See? It's contaminated my writing too.

Triple Dog
generally looks solid enough on Blu-ray. The HD photography is clean and clear, and it hasn't been processed to try to make itself look more filmic. I'll admit to not being the biggest fan of that overtly video look, and this isn't bleeding-edge gear in the first place, but Triple Dog still manages to pull it off pretty well. The levels of clarity and detail are unmistakably high-def, especially the way the lighting shows off those smooth gradients from one color to the next. Its black levels are rock solid as well, and the more stylized flashbacks aside, the palette consistently feels natural and brightly saturated. There is some background noise from the HD photography, though, and the compression seems to stumble over it, resulting in some light artifacting. It's not big and blocky, no, but it does leave Triple Dog looking that much more digital. When snapping screengrabs for this review, I noticed a lot of macroblocking in the shadows, but nothing like that ever leapt out at my while I was watching it on my home theater rig. As long as you can look past the really mild compression hiccups from that CCD noise, Triple Dog looks pretty nice on Blu-ray.

Triple Dog is presented on this BD-25 disc at an aspect ratio of 1.78:1. The video has been encoded with AVC.

This 16-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio track is kind of a mess. For one, it's mixed REALLY LOUD. I seriously had to dial my receiver down something like twenty ticks. Annoyingly, Triple Dog's dialogue is mirrored in all three front speakers at once. The placement of some sound effects is discrete, and cars and SUVs have a tendency to smoothly pan from channel to channel as they drive around, but a lot of other effects are duplicated in multiple channels. It just sounds incredibly awkward to hear the same exact effects swarming from both in front of you and behind. The bass is overcranked to the point where it's kind of obnoxious, really. I think I eventually settled into it, but the treble struck me as seeming kind of harsh early on. Maybe I should've settled for the straightahead stereo track -- in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 (224kbps) -- instead.

There aren't any dubs or commentary tracks this time around, and no captions or subtitle streams are listed on the Setup menu.

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  • Deleted Scenes (6 min.; HD): Not a special edition so much: this six minute reel of deleted scenes is about it. There are five clips in total, and most of them swirl around the aftermath of Chapin's fist fight, including a post-punching pow-wow in the ladies' room, getting grounded, and busting out for the sleepover. The other two clips include Liza being shuttled off to the party and Eve assuring her mom that she's not gonna booze it up on her Sweet Sixteenth. It's all just setting up or explaining things that are already pretty well established in the final cut, so these were rightfully snipped out.

  • Trailer (2 min.; HD): Along with a ninety-something second theatrical trailer, there are also clips for a couple of other Well Go releases.

The Final Word
I was trying to think of some clever way to wrap this whole thing up, but all I could come up with was a lame Super Sloppy Family Double Dare joke and quipping that you couldn't triple-dog-dare me to give this movie another spin. Yeah, that's not going to work. I'll just cut my losses and say Rent It instead.
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