There are two camps when it comes to fans of the teen/high school film comedy. On the one hand, you have the audience for whom the film is ultimately geared towards – the teenage market – and on the other, those people who’ve lived through their teenage years but remain fans of the genre.
Personally I tolerate the high school film. Although the formula is predictable, and I know well in advance what is going to happen, sometimes – and this doesn’t happen often – a film of this nature gets something right. Ten Things I Hate About You is a prime example. I can’t explain why this film sticks out. Maybe it’s the lively banter between Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles, or the humour-filled script, but this is a teen film that has stuck with me since … well my teens. That’s probably the answer right there. Ten Things I Hate About You is probably my defining teen film because at the time of its release, in 1999, I was 19 and formed part of the demographic that the film was geared towards. Since then I’ve entered into the phase of tolerance and I’m probably – the older I get – heading toward the hate phase.
In John Tucker Must Die, high school basketball star and ‘king’ of the school John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe) is a skilled super jock who exhibits even better handling skills when it comes to juggling woman off the court. You see, John has three girlfriends (Ashanti, Sophia Bush and Arielle Kebbel) who know nothing about each other. However, when he – to use a bad sports metaphor – has the ball knocked out of his hands and his girlfriends find out about one another they rope in a fourth girl (Brittany Snow) to help plot their revenge.
There’s not much about John Tucker Must Die that is unique or new. What you have with this film is a simple process of regurgitation of the teen film formula and conventions that we’ve all seen many times before. It goes through the motions and delivers where it needs to but it does little else. If the girls had actually planned to kill John – like the name implies – taking a few ideas from Heathers, then it could have been more interesting. Instead his ‘death’ is more emotional than physical. The plan is to get him to fall in love so that he can have his heart broken. The build-up to this event is littered with practical gags and jokes – of the estrogen tablets in John’s mass builder formula variety – that are obvious but, to be fair, fun.
Desperate Housewives and Passions star Jesse Metcalfe handles the title role of John Tucker with enthusiasm but, whether it be the script or the typecast role he has chosen to play, his portrayal of the womanizing basketball jock is stiff and laboured. It feels as if he is trying too hard. A scene in which he wears little more than a g-string, however, will thoroughly satisfy fans of the male physique. American Dreams star Brittany Snow, is on the other hand, refreshing and her performance definitely adds some much-needed spark. I look forward to seeing more of her in the future.
John Tucker Must Die is a fun but predictable and uninspired film that offers nothing new to an audience.