When I Was a Young Man

17 Again is Big and/or 13 Going on 30 in reverse with a touch of Back to the Future and Mrs. Doubtfire. Body transformation movies aren’t exactly their own genre, but I do notice when they pop up. 17 Again is the opposite of Big with a grown man becoming a teenager. Matthew Perry makes a rare movie appearance as 37 year old Mike O’Donnell. A former basketball star who gave up a scholarship to raise a family with his high school sweetheart.

Since Mike turned into a loser with a failing marriage, a mysterious janitor played by Brian Doyle-Murray grants his wish to be 17 again. Zac Efron is still practically Troy Bolton one year after finishing High School Musical. Mostly because both characters play basketball. With the help of his super nerdy best friend Ned, Mike poses as Mark in order to live his lost dream. Ned has his own subplot with a hot principal that he constantly pursues. I enjoyed the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings references, but 17 Again is really about Mike fixing the relationship he has with his family.

Like Mrs. Doubtfire, Mike secretly gets to know his wife, daughter, and son a lot better. He helps his bullied son Alex played by Sterling Knight by giving him self confidence. His daughter Maggie played by Michelle Trachtenberg is dating the bully Stan, and he helps by convincing her he’s bad. Of course it does lead to an awkward, but funny Back to the Future scenario. Just as awkward is Mike rekindling his love for wife Scarlet played by an increasingly confused Leslie Mann. Reversing the age of the character isn’t always as hilarious as previous movies, but 17 Again has the heart to make it work.

17 Again

Mike (Mark) reminisces with his wife Scarlet

From Mean Girl to Lowlife

The Hot Chick is a cruder version of Freaky Friday. Most of the time I enjoy a good body swap movie, but I’m not the biggest fan of Rob Schneider. Especially ones from Happy Madison Productions. Unlike most body swap movies, The Hot Chick is a pretty one-sided Schneider starring vehicle. Although he swaps with Rachel McAdams, she wouldn’t become a big star until Mean Girls, 2 years later. Ironically, McAdams plays a similar pink loving mean girl named Jessica Spencer. She’s like any other popular teenager who’s mean to the not so popular, but she is shown to have a heart early on.

The Hot Chick surprisingly begins in an early Abyssinian kingdom where the method of swapping bodies is revealed to be a pair of magic earrings. When Jessica swipes them from an African artifact store, she swaps with bumbling lowlife Clive Maxtone. Almost all the attention is given to Jessica trapped in a man’s body. Expect several penis jokes and other cringy gender related hijinks. Although Anna Faris is pretty good as Jessica’s best friend who develops a pseudo-lesbian crush on her/him. Like Big, it’s a catchy clapping song that convinces her.

Of course Jessica does have a boyfriend played by a very uncomfortable Matthew Lawrence. Jessica’s family is pretty over-the-top, but it’s actually her Blasian friend who gets her own subplot for some reason. Adam Sandler, the Mowry twins, and singer Ashlee Simpson all have cameos. McAdams feels like a cameo until Clive is shown working as a stipper until they swap back. I’m immature enough to find some of the jokes funny, but The Hot Chick probably would’ve been a guilty pleasure if I’d seen it sooner.

The Hot Chick

April helps Jessica wax

Leader of the Pack

Cry-Baby is director John Waters’ answer to the success of Hairspray. Turns out going a more family friendly route was a good idea. Cry-Baby is somewhere in the middle with a mostly tame PG-13 rating. It’s probably the only other John Waters movie I’m willing to see. The only disgusting part is a particularly graphic french kissing session. Cry-Baby is just as campy as Hairspray with another Baltimore set story taking place in a bygone era. Except this time it’s the counterculture from the 1950’s. Cry-Baby is a post-Grease musical love story between a juvenile delinquent and a good girl.

“Cry-Baby” Walker is a sensitive “drape” who charms girls with a single tear. Allison is a “square” yearning to shed her perfect image. They’re a passionate couple who turn the whole town upside down. Amy Locane is hot, but it’s Johnny Depp who embraced his heartthrob status before going the opposite route with Edward Scissorhands released the same year. The rest of the motley cast is full of John Waters mainstays like Ricki Lake, counterculture icons like Iggy Pop, controversial former pornstar Traci Lords, and even a cameo from Willem Dafoe.

All of the “drapes” standout, but it’s the aptly named Hatchet-Face who makes the strongest impression. Newcomer Kim McGuire fills the role that Divine would’ve had had he not passed away. Cry-Baby is a strange film that ends up being funny, because it takes itself so seriously. The 50’s inspired songs are so good that they inspired another musical adaptation. Cry-Baby is a cult hit for those weird enough to understand it.


Allison talks to Cry-Baby and his Drapes

Stay Gold Ponyboy

The Outsiders may be the most crucial teen movie ever made. It’s responsible for launching the careers of C. Thomas Howell, Ralph Macchio, Matt Dillon, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Emilio Estevez, Diane Lane, and even Tom Cruise. So many young future stars getting their start in the same movie. It led to the creation of the Brat Pack which lasted throughout the 80’s. I love teen movies, but my history with The Outsiders is a little complicated. The Outsiders is based on a 1967 novel by S. E. Hinton. She wrote the coming-of-age book when she was in high school. I ended up reading The Outsiders in middle school and we watched the movie in class, but I have a scattered memory of it.

Acclaimed director Francis Ford Coppola isn’t known for angsty teen dramas, but he was inspired to adapt the book after students recommended him for the job. The Outsiders is certainly different with a shorter runtime than most Coppola films. Hinton worked closely with Coppola and the actors in order to stay faithful to the story. As the title suggests, the greasers are a group of outsiders living in 1965 Oklahoma. Most of them have nicknames, but all of them are at odds with the high class socs. Dally is the toughest greaser who flirts with danger and redheaded socs girl Cherry Valance.

Ponyboy and Johnny are the most sensitive greasers who come from the roughest families. Ponyboy lives with his brothers Darry and Sodapop and Johnny lives with his abusive parents. Reality strikes when a fatal stabbing forces them to go on the run. The Outsiders is all about those who continue down a dangerous path and those who strive to be better. Dally, Johnny, and Ponyboy are labeled heroes after saving kids from a burning building, but it ends tragically for two of them. All you can do is “Stay Gold” and make life worth living. The Outsiders set the standard for many teen movies to come.

The Outsiders

Dally (center) helps out Johnny (left) and Ponyboy (right)

Life’s a Witch

The Craft: Legacy isn’t as charming as it thinks it is. The original Craft gained a less than ironic cult following. As a Christian, I wouldn’t consider myself among them. Not that the original wasn’t well crafted for the kind of magical story it was trying to tell. So the idea of a remake sounded pointless for something that only came out in 1996. At least I thought it was a remake. Blumhouse only wants to make horror movies that are still connected to the original.

When the first trailer dropped out of nowhere, several scenes from the original were recreated. Specifically the “Light as a feather, stiff as a board” levitation and “We are the weirdos, mister” comeback. Until the trailer shows a clearly superimposed photo of original witch Nancy Downs. Fairuza Balk does play a part, but it’s clearly sequel bait. Since it was 2020, Legacy streamed exclusively on Amazon Prime with very little warning. If the original was a time capsule of the 90’s, then Legacy is a time capsule of the 2020’s (and not in a good way).

Director Zoe Lister-Jones fills it with everything annoying about modern teenagers. It doesn’t help that this coven of witches are obvious clones of the original. The lead outcast Lily is just another new kid in town. The difference is her stepfather and three stepbrothers who not so surprisingly end up being evil. The witches also cast a spell on a bully in order to make him more sensitive. The young cast feels very generic with David Duchovny and Michelle Monaghan being the only actors I recognized. The Craft: Legacy is only for weirdos.

The Craft Legacy

The sisterhood

Preceded by: The Craft

Wild Night

Project X is the craziest party you’ll ever see. There’ve been plenty of wild high school parties in movies, but nothing comes close to this. The party is so out of control that Project X had to come with a warning. There’s no real point to the movie other than showing the most reckless behavior imaginable. Even though a lot of teenagers make bad decisions, it’s not always gonna be enjoyable to watch. I get why critics hated Project X, but I mostly saw it as brainless entertainment.

Tom is a promising student with a small circle of friends. Kirby is his only female friend who truly likes him. His nerdy friend J.B. is as likable as she is, but Costa is a movie best friend that no one in their right mind would actually hang out with. He’s the biggest foul mouthed misogynistic jerk in the movie (and that’s saying something). I think my favorite character is the mysterious loner behind the camera. Project X uses a found footage approach to make it seem more authentic. Most actors are unknown aside from a random appearance from Miles Teller.

Everything centers around the party in Pasadena. Tom’s parents leave for the week, a massive amount of invitations are sent out, neighbors are warned, drugs & alcohol are acquired, and security is hired. The party seems harmless at first, but then the music kicks in, girls get topless, the dog gets passed around, the house gets trashed, and a little person starts punching below the belt. It only gets worse when the cops are called and a maniac shows up with a flamethrower. Though it led to several imitators, Project X is not something to aspire to.

Project X

Tom’s party gets out of control

I Wanna Be the One to Walk in the Sun!

Girls Just Want to Have Fun is fun for everyone. Although I’m a big fan of cheesy 80’s teen movies, it was my co-worker who recommended Girls Just Want to Have Fun. I always assumed the movie’s poster was for the Cyndi Lauper music video of the same name. Much like the hit song itself, Girls Just Want to Have Fun is all about girls wanting to have fun. Like all the best 80’s cult films, Girls Just Want to Have Fun takes place in Chicago. A very young Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt star as Janey Glenn and Lynne Stone respectively.

Janey is an army brat with a strict father who sends her to Catholic school. Lynne is her new fun-loving best friend who steals the show despite not being the center of attention. They both enter a competition for a chance to be on their favorite MTV inspired network Dance TV. Janey rebels and ends up falling in love with her bad boy dance partner Jeff, played by the lesser known Lee Montgomery. Jeff has the usual teen problems and a goofy sidekick who constantly tries to sell things.

His younger sister Maggie is more notably played by Shannen Doherty. In fact, several before they were famous stars make surprise appearances. Resident mean girl Natalie attempts to rig the dance competition, but it’s nothing a montage set to an alternate version of “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” can’t fix. Guaranteed to make you wanna dance along. It’s cliché and over-the-top, but that’s part of the charm. Girls Just Wanna Have Fun is just too infectious to dismiss.

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Janey and Lynne watch Dance TV

You Have to Promise You Won’t Fall in Love with Me

A Walk to Remember is sadder than The Notebook, but not as remembered by the general public. The Notebook was of course the first Nicholas Sparks adaptation that I saw. A Walk to Remember seemed like a good follow up due to its similarities. Both books take place in the past and have sad endings. A Walk to Remember keeps the sad ending, but the setting is modernized. Most of the North Carolina set was even borrowed from Dawson’s Creek. Most critics wrote it off, but I knew there was a loyal fanbase.

I was genuinely moved by A Walk to Remember no matter how cliché it might be. Landon Carter is your typical bad boy who acts out. Jamie Sullivan is your typical reverend’s daughter with her own interests. Though they’ve known each other a long time, they’re brought together when Landon is forced to do a school play. Jamie only helps him under the condition that he doesn’t fall in love with her. Of course that’s a promise he won’t be able to keep for long. Jamie’s disapproving father and Landon’s mostly lousy friends can’t get in the way of them falling in love.

Their romance is sweet with Landon helping Jamie accomplish everything on her list. Shane West has a fine emotional transformation and Mandy Moore proves herself as an actress. Though she does sing on two separate occasions. The sadness comes in when Jamie reveals she has leukemia. Sparks wrote the story for his own sister battling cancer. Jamie actually looks sick, but her faith is refreshingly shown in a positive light. I cried from the reveal to Jamie’s final wish to be married. Love Story may have done it first, but I prefer A Walk to Remember.

A Walk to Remember

Landon sits with Jamie

Girly Man

Just One of the Guys is Twelfth Night if it were set in the 80’s. Unlike the 2006 She’s the Man, Just One of the Guys doesn’t use any of William Shakespeare’s original names. I’m a fan of crossdressing comedies, but that wasn’t my reason for seeing a movie I probably would’ve never heard of. I heard it had one of the more famous PG-13 nude scenes. Just One of the Guys centers on high school student Terri. She’s an aspiring writer who disguises herself as a boy when her writing isn’t taken seriously enough to win a publishing job.

With the help of her overly sex-crazed brother, Joyce Hyser becomes a mostly convincing guy. The usual hijinks ensue. Guys pick on her, girls unknowingly flirt with her, awkward things happen in the boy’s locker room, and she falls for a guy while in her disguise. Leading to even more hijinks when her college boyfriend drops by unannounced. Eventually they sort of forget about the writing thing in favor of male bonding turned high school romance.

Things take a turn at the prom where Terri decides to reveal herself the only way she can. By opening her shirt for a few seconds. I’m actually surprised the movie didn’t get an R rating. There’s a lot of crude sex talk and a whole bedroom covered with naked woman. Everything else is standard teen movie fair. Complete with very over-the-top nerds and William Zabka as the bully. Apart from the fun crossdressing part, Just One of the Guys is just one of several similar 80’s teen movies.

Just One of the Guys

Terri (left) checks someone out

Living in the Moment

The Spectacular Now is all about living in the moment. As one of the earliest films from A24, I knew I needed to see The Spectacular Now now. I didn’t read the book, but Shailene Woodley’s strange romantic connection to three of her Divergent co-stars is what caught my attention. In this case it’s with her onscreen rival played by Miles Teller. What elevates The Spectacular Now from other coming of age teen flicks is just how genuine it feels.

Set at the end of Senior year, Sutter Keely is only concerned with drinking and partying with his girlfriend Cassidy. But living in the now comes at the expense of his future and even his girlfriend. I’m not the biggest fan of Miles Teller, but he does manage to make a popular alcoholic like Sutter likable, or at least believable. The breakup hits him hard and he goes on a bender that results in him passed out on a strangers lawn. Genuinely likable introvert Aimee Finecky finds him and they start talking. Aimee’s a lot like how I was growing up. Not exactly shy, optimistic, nerdy, comfortable staying out of social situations, but willing to do more.

Shailene Woodley is a natural who plays Aimee very kind and forgiving. Although they seem like polar opposites, they become a couple that feels real. Their first kiss is awkward, their first time is realistic, and they have rough patches before and after prom. It’s just Sutter meeting his deadbeat drunk father for the first time that causes self doubt. I thought it would take a darker turn, but The Spectacular Now works best as a personal journey that points to an optimistic future.


Aimee helps Sutter pick out a song