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.

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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.

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Aimee helps Sutter pick out a song

Candy Coated Crime

Jawbreaker is in the same vein as Heathers and is a major precursor to Mean Girls. Yet it was brutally criticised for its dark comedy and possibly ripping off Heathers. Despite that, Jawbreaker became a cult favorite. Making for a unique edition to my 1999 teen movie marathon. Jawbreaker has a very twisted sense of humor. Opening with the accidental murder of teen dream Liz Purr. A prank by her own friends who stage a fake kidnapping and gag her with the titular hard candy. I’ve never been a fan of jawbreakers, because I always get impatient and bite down.

Rose McGowan plays the lead mean girl Courtney Shayne to perfection. She’s pure high school evil. Willing to cover up the death, act like nothing happened, and manipulate anyone in her way. Marcie remains her ditzy right hand, but Julie leaves when it all becomes too much. So Courtney & Marcie take in outcast/witness Fern Mayo and make her part of their clique. Giving her one of the most drastic movie makeovers I’ve ever seen. I honestly couldn’t tell it was Judy Greer at first.

The newly dubbed Vylette lets the popularity get to her head and faces Courtney’s wrath because of it. All the while Pam Grier investigates the supposed assault. The only ones who can expose the truth are Julie, her boyfriend, and Fern. Jawbreaker is so dark, yet contains an insanely bright color palette. With upbeat songs like “Yoo Hoo” and sexy outfits in every color but black. The most iconic scene hands down is the bad girl strut that’s been mimicked ever since. Jawbreaker is sweet on the outside, but hard hitting on the inside.

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Courtney (center) and her clique strut down the hallway

Life’s a Witch

The Craft may be about teen witches, but it’s really about finding where you belong. Sarah is an outcast who befriends fellow outcasts Nancy, Bonnie, and Rochelle. Sarah is a suicidal youth who’s just moved to Los Angeles. Each of her new friends harber problems of their own. Nancy lives in an abusive trailer park, Bonnie hides her burns, and Rochelle deals with racist bullies. Although they seem like just your average weird goth clique, they not so secretly mess with witchcraft.

The Craft has an ironic cult following that lead to a lot of influence for horror adjacent teen movies & shows. Especially for something released in the 90’s. I’m not as familiar with Robin Tunney or Rachel True, but this was the movie Neve Campbell did right before earning further attention with Scream. Even Skeet Ulrich made his big break here. The biggest scene stealer however is Fairuza Balk. As a goth icon/psycho witch, Nancy invites Sarah to join their coven after recognizing her power.

The wannabe witches have no power, but they gain some when the four are together. Using it to make all their problems go away, even at the expense of their sanity. As a Christian, the incantations can get uncomfortably realistic, but they at least address the problem with messing with it. No wonder it was R rated with many on set incidents. The magic effects have a 90’s cheesiness that works with the dark edginess of the era. If you strip away all the magic, you may find an enchanting story of empowering female friendship. The Craft could never be recaptured anywhere other than the 90’s.

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Bonnie (left), Nancy (center), and Rochelle (right) intimidate Sarah

High School Party

Can’t Hardly Wait focuses solely on the party we see in almost every 80’s teen movie. Although Can’t Hardly Wait misses the 1999 teen movie craze by a year, I still included it in my marathon. I guarantee I probably wouldn’t have even heard of it if not for my love of cheesy teen flicks. Although the title doesn’t really indicate what it’s about. Can’t Hardly Wait is literally one big party scene. 1 hour & 41 minutes of non-stop teen partying, drinking, and PG-13 sex.

It gives attention to a collection of teen stars who appeared in the movie before they were famous. Along with a few major stars who weren’t even credited. Like Jerry O’Connell, Melissa Joan Hart, and Jenna Elfman to name a few. The after graduation party is attended by everyone from nerds to populars. Preston is the outcast who has an unspoken love for a popular girl. Something I can relate to. Jennifer Love Hewitt is the popular girl Amanda Beckett. The perpetually confused looking Amanda is every guy’s dream girl. Since she recently broke up with her jerk jock boyfriend Mike, Preston sees this as an opportunity to give her a letter containing his feelings.

Meanwhile, Preston’s anti-social friend Denise gets stuck in a bathroom with her childhood friend Kenny. A white kid who thinks he’s black that only Seth Green could play. They develop a romance that’s a bit more believable than the primary fairytale romance. There’s also a nerd who becomes the coolest guy at the party, a bickering band, struggling populars, and a bunch of colorful classmates. Can’t Hardly Wait is hardly realistic, but who cares when it’s this much fun.

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Preston wants to talk to Amanda

I Don’t Know My Name

Stargirl is just what Disney+ needed. Not to be confused with the Stargirl TV series from DC. That also happens to be released in 2020 starring a blonde teenage girl named Stargirl. The movie is based on a popular 2000 YA novel. An adaptation was in talks for years, but I swear the title role was made for America’s Got Talent winner Grace VanderWaal. Both are precocious young ladies with a talent for playing the ukulele. Along with not knowing her name.

VanderWaal is a natural in her first acting role. Covering many peppy pop songs. Although it’s really Graham Verchere as Leo whose perspective we follow. He was once different with his obsession for porcupine neckties, but High School has forced him to be like everyone else. Until new girl Stargirl Caraway helps him to stand out. She’s quirky, flowery, and different, but everyone in school embraces her. So she becomes the schools unofficial good luck charm playing her ukulele at all the games. She fits the manic pixie dream girl description in more ways than one.

The young love relationship that Leo & Stargirl have is just too cute. So it’s unfortunate when all of her genuinely good deeds begin catching up with her and she faces an identity crisis. She’s so too good to be true that many people question whether she really existed. The one thing I know for sure is that Stargirl really speaks to me. The cinematography is so good that I sometimes forgot I was watching a Disney teen movie. Stargirl may be different, but that’s a beautiful thing.

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Stargirl plays for everyone

Pool Boy Meets Popular Girl

Love Don’t Cost a Thing is the hip hop version of Can’t Buy Me Love nobody asked for. Or heard of depending on who you ask. The original has 80’s appeal, but it was never that great to begin with. So the modernized remake, now named after a Jennifer Lopez song, was already in a difficult position. Apart from the all black cast, the basic nerdy teen buys a popular girl’s affection to become popular premise is the same.

Instead of a lawn mower boy, Alvin is a pool boy. Which is a bit specific since only so many people have pools. Love Don’t Cost a Thing is filled with 2000’s stars I’m much more familiar with, but Nick Cannon can only be so nerdy. The popular girl is about the same since that image doesn’t change much. Except it’s an older basketball player Paris is pining over. Christina Milian is about as good as what came before. This time the reason for the arrangement is a wrecked car. The fake relationship is another believable romance. The main problem is everyone is too nice. The exact opposite of Can’t Buy Me Love being too cynical.

The breakup can barely be considered harsh and the lie reveal hardly feels devastating. By the end, Alvin gives a less violent version of the speech about popularity. Paris & Alvin fall in love, but it’s just a kiss without a memorable romantic gesture. Along with it feeling more like a sexually charged rap video with teenagers, Steve Harvey is given way too much screen time. With endless cringy sex talk for his son. The only thing Love Don’t Cost a Thing costs is your time.

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Alvin walks with Paris

Remake of: Can’t Buy Me Love

Lawn Mower Boy Meets Popular Girl

Can’t Buy Me Love is more than just a hit song from the Beatles. It’s also a mostly forgotten 80’s teen movie. Something I’d probably never know about if not for Easy A. In the movie, Emma Stone’s character talks about grand romantic gestures in 80’s flicks. I’ve seen The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, and Say Anything…, but I didn’t even recognize Can’t Buy Me Love. It’s essentially about a nerd buying a popular girl’s affection just to become popular. That sounds bad, but it does go deeper than that.

I was shocked to learn the scrawny geek Ronald is McDreamy himself Patrick Dempsey. Talk about growth spurt. Ronald is your typical unpopular outcast. He mows lawns to pay for a $1,000 telescope. Cindy seems like your average popular cheerleader pining after an older quarterback, but she has it just as hard as every other teenager. Amanda Peterson had so much potential. They live next door, but it’s not until the white dress she borrows from her mother gets ruined that he makes the offer. $1,000 to pretend they’re a couple for a month. Cindy helps make Ronald look cooler and Ronald encourages her love of poetry.

Their fake relationship turns into real feelings that are actually really sweet. Then they ruin everything when the popularity gets to Ronald’s head. I get what they’re trying to say about social circles, but does he have to be such a jerk. Eventually he does get called out and there’s a lesson about how fleeting popularity is. The best moment is the final romantic gesture. Where Cindy chooses Ronald by riding off on his lawn mower. If you’re looking for lesser known teen movies, you can’t put a price on Can’t Buy Me Love.

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Cindy rides Ronald’s lawn mower

As American as Apple Pie

American Pie brought back the R rated teen sex comedy. Even though 1999 was loaded with teen movies, American Pie was a suggestive standout. American Pie is the tale of four guys on a quest to lose their virginity. Jason Biggs is awkward teen Jim. He’s friends with the slightly cooler Kevin, popular jock friend Oz, and the nerdy sophisticated Finch. I’m not sure how they’re all friends, but they are all virgins. All except their obnoxious sort of friend Stifler. Played with hard R finesse by breakout star Seann William Scott. Rather than the Don McLean song, the title refers to third base being like “warm apple pie.” Which leads to the grossist, most memorable moment. Each friend goes about losing their virginity in vastly different ways.

American Pie has four hotties. Shannon Elizabeth stands out with the movie’s one nude scene, but Tara Reid, Alyson Hannigan, and the All-American Mena Suvari stand out too. I say All-American because this is strangely one of many movies/shows sheโ€™s appeared in with โ€œAmericanโ€ in the title (American Beauty for example). Eugene Levy steals every scene giving hilariously awkward sex advice to Jim. Jim almost sleeps with sexy foreign exchange student Nadia when they catch her topless on a webcam, but he settles for band geek Michelle. “This one time, at band camp…” Kevin uses a secret sex book to better please his girlfriend Vicky, but they struggle to go all the way. Oz tries to become more sensitive by joining choir and he ends up falling in love with Heather in the process. Finch gets Vicky’s hip friend Jessica to give him an irresistible reputation, until it’s all flushed away.

Despite a few hiccups everyone honors the pact. Kevin awkwardly sleeps with Vicky, Oz romanticly sleeps with Heather, Jim has a one night stand with the surprisingly experienced Michelle, and Finch gets revenge on Stifler by seducing Stifler’s mom. I’m not a huge fan of raunchy, sort of disgusting humor, but there was no way I wouldn’t see American Pie. Despite all the sex talk, there are still several good lessons to be learned. I can’t relate to all of it, but I came to the conclusion that American Pie is a 90’s teen classic.

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Nadia plays music for Jim

Followed by: American Pie 2

Cupid’s Day

Before I Fall is one of many movies made featuring a time loop. I swear it’s practically become a genre at this point. But while most of them can be labeled comedies, Before I Fall is much more dramatic. While at the same time utilizing the YA teen subgenre. I was somewhat intrigued since it’s really difficult to go wrong with the time loop gimmick. Even though I didn’t read the book, I very nearly went to see the movie. I didn’t, but luckily another time loop movie was released the same year (Happy Death Day).

Before I Fall centers its time loop on teenager Samantha. On the fictional holiday Cupid’s Day (a possible reference to Groundhog Day), Sam hangs with her popular sort of mean girl best friends and douchey boyfriend. She attends a party and apart from a nasty incident, all seems normal. Until she’s killed in a car crash at precisely 12:39AM. The first loop feels like a dream. Then Sam does whatever she can to avoid dying, but she gives up when there appears to be no way out.

Like most time loop movies, Sam ends up doing whatever she wants to whoever she wants. The dramatic tone makes it feel a lot harsher. So she begins a path of self improvement that addresses whether or not she’s a good person. Zoey Deutch is a natural just like her mother Lea Thompson. Who ironically also played a teenager in a movie about time. Sam repairs her relationships, but this isn’t exactly a happy ending. I get the moral, but it’s more than a little depressing. Before I Fall is an underrated time loop scenario with a not often explored existential tone.

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Sam’s life passes her by