Monday, 12 February 2007

John Tucker Must Die (2006)

John Tucker Must Die

From the sublime to the ridiculous: after reviewing DVDs about mental illness (Keane) and autism (Snow Cake) comes John Tucker Must Die, a teen-oriented flick with a lead actor known only for a mostly non-speaking part as 'hunky gardener' on the ridiculously over-the-top TV soap Desperate Housewives. Can Hollywood 'cash in and cash up' films get much worse than this?

Well actually, Yes! Given the extremely negative reviews the film has had you’d be forgiven for thinking that all a movie needs to get green-lit these days is a bunch of pretty faces that are well known to the public. But while there are plenty of pretty faces and bodies here – far too many to make the basic premise in any way believable – there are also plenty of laughs too.

John Tucker Must Die screencap

John Tucker Must Die is a pretty meaningless piece of fluff. But it’s fun for all that, and for those moments when you just want to kick off your shoes, sit back and watch a brainless, popcorn, make-believe movie it's perfect, especially if you're of the Buffy/The O.C. TV generation.

The afore-mentioned hunky gardener (Jesse Metcalfe - I wonder if Jesse has the same sexual connotation in the States as it does over here!) plays John, the school jock who has beautiful girls falling at his feet left, right and centre. Monogamy isn’t in the guy’s vocabulary but he gets away with his endless lies and cheating ways through a mixture of bluff, good looks and cheeky charm. Accuse him of being shallow and you'll get a quick rebuttal: "How can you say I’m not deep when I’m dating all of the Poetry Society?!".

John Tucker Must Die screencap

When three different girls find out he’s been lying and cheating to all of them, it’s newcomer Kate SPencer (Brittany Snow) who opens their eyes and suggests the best way to get back is to get even. Kate actually has a thing for John’s brother, the much more honest and introverted Scott (Penn Badgley who fortunately feels the same way about her, but she’s never had a boyfriend before and the two seem destined to never get their act together – particularly when her new friends set her up to become John’s new girlfriend so she can crush him when he falls in love with her. The hardly surprising result of course is that not only does he fall for her, but she finds herself falling for him too.

John Tucker Must Die screencap

Essentially this is an old-fashioned morality tale about being honest, saving yourself for your one true love, ya da ya da ya da! Set almost completely in a school comprising students who are all unfeasibly attractive (with the single exception being the obligatory 'black, fat homie' comic relief character) and seemingly in their late 20’s you need to suspend belief on admission, particularly with the leads' every appearance seeming to advertise the fact that they've just stepped out of a four hour session at a manicure, health and beauty spa - and that's just the MALE leads! However, if you CAN suspend belief it’s a fun ride, with some unexpected twists and turns along the way, and a surprisingly fast-moving and witty script.

The cast are clearly enjoying themselves, and although there’s not a lot of 'real acting' required, the two main leads are engaging and likeable enough to carry you along on the journey.

John Tucker Must Die screencap

The transfer from film to DVD is excellent, as you would expect for a release as recent as this. The extra’s are less so, and appear to have been constructed primarily so that the packaging can give the false impression that there’s a lot more here than is actually included.

The commentary from director Betty Thomas and editor Matt Friedman are fine enough, but there are several references to deleted scenes which sound interesting but haven’t been included. If you do click on the advertised Deleted Scenes featurette you get two pitifully short scenes that clock in at under a minute and a half in total.

The four, much-heralded featurettes follow a similar pattern with the longest clocking in at less than four minutes and the shortest at not much over a minute! These include a quick marketing ‘Making of’ featurette, a haphazard tour of the set by male lead Metcalfe (consisting mainly of him admiring another crew member’s bike and his mother phoning half way through the 'tour' - ahh bless!), and a very quick synopsis of the main characters. Two pop items (one performed live on set, but barely used in the film; the other being a pop record promotionm tie-in) complete the package. The extra’s are cheap and cheerful enough, but there’s really not much here.

If you want a fun night in with the girlfriend/boyfriend this is worth a rental, and the critics who've pooh-poohed it need to lighten up. However if you're looking for something deep and meaningful this one is probably best avoided.

John Tucker Must Die screencap

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