For every well-intentioned project ABC Family puts on air -- Switched at Birth, Cyberbully, even their recent "Delete Digital Drama" campaign -- there's about a billion stupid, trite and silly ones; take last night's original movie, Teen Spirit. Yes, at first glance it didn't sound like it was going to be too terrible: A popular girl dies and, to go to heaven instead of hell, she has to help the biggest nerd in the school win prom queen. But painful it was. It was every teen movie cliché stuck into one, and the fixation on death (and dirty jokes) certainly didn't help. I even started out trying to write just the five worst things about the movie, but I ended up with eight. Here goes:
8. Tim Gunn
Tim Gunn narrates the movie and also plays the King of the Purgatory-type character. And while I usually love him, he just can't act. He is brilliant on Project Runway, but that's because he's being himself. Here, everything is forced and corny... He's trying to be bitchy, I guess, or funny -- but instead he just seems out of his element.
7. High School Stereotypes
If you thought Mean Girls or Awkward. exaggerated stereotypes of high school kids, Teen Spirit's popular girl (Amber) is unironically introduced by the slow-mo walk down the hallway shot. She only wears pink, is obsessed with being prom queen, and has a nice car and a posse that stands behind her to shoot people intimidating looks. Then, since there's only ever popular kids and nerds in high school -- absolutely no other groups and no other options, you guys -- the nerds are the kids who play instruments and make movies. And finally, the parents: One mom doesn't pay attention to her kids for no apparent reason, while the other is goofy and supportive no matter what.
6. Death Just Isn't That Funny
No matter how bitchy a high school girl may be, I don't think she would react to her own death by saying, "That's soooo not fair!" Not only that, on the phone with 911, the school principal refers to Amber as dead "as a doornail." Because that's how the principal of a school would react if a student died. Obviously, it was meant to be funny and irreverent, but it just fell flat. None of the kids at the school cared about Amber's death, either, even though they all saw her die right in front of them. Her boyfriend says "she was finally gonna let me do her." (He's a jock, of course.) The whole thing is just creepy -- who makes fun of a dead girl, no matter how cruel she may have been?
5. All-School Airing of Dirty Laundry
Cyberbully Part 2, everybody! Yep, Teen Spirit had the all-school apology scene at the end of the movie, too. At prom, Lisa (the nerd-turned-cool girl) gets up on the stage to tell everyone what she's learned -- and not only is the scene clichéd, her message is as well. Guess what? Popularity isn't everything! When will ABC Family do something that doesn't revolve around girls who want to be popular? Or about girls who don't believe that "it's what on the outside that counts"? Even if I was their intended audience, I'd be tired of this crap.
4. The Makeover
Much like the all-school confrontation, the makeover plotline is as old as time -- a popular girl "makes over" a loser, the loser gets caught up in the popularity and becomes a bitch. We've seen it in Clueless, Mean Girls, The Devil Wears Prada...Not Another Teen Movie even points out the ridiculousness of it. The nerdy girl just has to let down her hair and take her glasses off, and she's immediately beautiful and popular. That's what happens here (minus the glasses -- Lisa wears flannel instead). There's even the cringe-worthy shopping/dancing in front of mirrors scene. The worst part? Lisa agrees to the makeover because she wants to get a guy's attention.
3. Dirty Jokes
I guess at this point I shouldn't be surprised that ABC Family is obsessed with sex -- they are the network that had the Secret Life of the American Teenager cast say the word "sex" 70 times in one episode. But they're not talking about sex here, they're alluding to it in some seriously sketchy ways -- Amber tells Lisa to "Wax. Everything," and to "choose your signature scent so your boy can find you in the dark." To get help from some guys, Amber suggests to Lisa, "Tell them you'll sleep with them." And while I'm all for cute butts, Lisa obsesses over a guy's for almost the whole movie. Like I said -- painful.
2. She Must Sing
When Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff and Mandy Moore were still in their teens, all of their characters in movies would be aspiring singers or star in musicals, just so the girls could sing. That way they would get a song on the soundtrack, and launch (or continue) their music careers. That's a lot like what happened in Teen Spirit -- Lisa randomly has an impromptu concert (with a band and all) in her backyard. All along, Lisa had been a piano player, but all of a sudden she was a singer. Not seeing the song on iTunes yet, but I have a feeling it'll show up soon.
1. The Haunting
And at last -- I don't know about you guys, but if a ghost starting talking to me and I was the only one who could hear or see it, I'd consider myself certifiable. After two days, Lisa is cool with it -- and with the ghost entering her body and taking over. Another wonderful example of ABC Family's idea of normal.
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