John Tucker Must Die
2006, PG-13, 87 min. Directed by Betty Thomas. Starring Jesse Metcalfe, Brittany Snow, Ashanti, Sophia Bush, Arielle Kebbel, Penn Badgley, Jenny McCarthy.
REVIEWED By Steve Davis, Fri., Aug. 4, 2006
With a title like John Tucker Must Die, you would expect this teen comedy about a group of spurned females exacting revenge against a three-timing, high school stud-muffin to have an edge. Though it’s not an entirely disagreeable experience, there is, on the contrary, little that is sharp or pointed about this movie, which features Desperate Housewives hunk Metcalfe both without a shirt and in a thong, a sign that undeniably demonstrates he is stretching as an actor. (To be fair, Metcalfe has one semifunny scene in which he has an emotional meltdown on the basketball court, but there’s no question that his principal role here is to serve as the film’s sex object, no doubt to the delight of pubescent girls and gay men everywhere.) The premise in Jeff Lowell’s screenplay has Heathers-like promise – a trio of not-so-mean girls enlist the aid of a newbie student to break the heart of the heartthrob who dumped them – but it gets silly and sentimental fairly quickly, though to its credit, the cad in the title is only partially reformed in the end. (The movie probably would have ended differently 10 years ago, however, if then flavor-of-the-moment Freddie Prinze Jr. had played the lead.) As the wallflower who is supposed to act as the avenging angel, Snow has a likable quality about her, reminiscent of Reese Witherspoon; she’s the girl next door, but with something more lurking just beneath the surface. It will be interesting to see if Snow is able to find more substantial roles that will give her the opportunity to show a little spunk and grit onscreen. (That may happen sooner rather than later. Rumor has it that she’s been cast as the evil Amber Von Tussel in the movie version of the Broadway musical Hairspray.) Director Thomas seems an odd choice to helm this film, given its audience demographics, but she keeps things moving at a pace that occasionally distracts from the paper-thin plot. For better or worse, she’s become queen of the B-movie comedy. Given its lack of edge and few memorable moments – well, again, there is Metcalfe wearing that Victoria’s Secret underwear – John Tucker Must Die will undoubtedly fade into obscurity like so many silly and sentimental teen comedies before it. It’s no wonder that the genre has turned to sex with apple pies and the like in an effort to distinguish itself.