TIt’s the spirit of sparkling high school comedy, from Not Kissed to Mean Girls to Easy A, haunting the Netflix junkie “If You Want…” on the senior year show, with progressively deafening reminders of what came before. Where those films had charm, wit, and dynamism, they had this rather lavish absence, which is disappointing and derivational for two hours down memory lane.
It looks at least like the movies you desperately want to put together, a quick hint to their origins, made by Paramount before being uploaded to Netflix. British director Alex Hardcastle, best known for his sitcom work, does an admirable job of tricking us into believing we’re in good hands with poppy’s pre-screen aesthetics, from Andrew Knauer, Arthur Bailey and actor Brandon Scott Jones, reminding us that we’re not so much, the loosely familiar framework of comedy The powerful studio collapses with every ill-advised decision made. Worst of all is the casting of Rebel Wilson, a brilliant comedian who often works best as a quick supporter (funny in both Bridesmaids and the underrated 2015 How to Be Single) but who often struggles in the more substantial spotlight (not completed) in the 2019 rom-com spoof movie Isn’t It Romantic).
She’s given a very specific acting challenge here that requires more than she can really give, playing a woman who wakes up from a 20-year coma after a cheerleading accident at school. She may look 37 but she has the mind of a 17-year-old girl (there is a complex psychological drama that would have come out of this premise) and so her every move must reflect this confusing discord.
Before there lie great examples of actors who have effortlessly managed something similar, from Jennifer Garner in 13 Going on 30 or Tom Hanks in Big or more recently the surprisingly ornate Vince Vaughn in Freaky, but Wilson’s fault has never convinced him as someone who discovers the intricacies of a new body and new life. , a simple, surface-level performance unhelped by a script that also doesn’t fully grapple with the actual everyday details or true comedy of such a surreal experience. Instead, it’s just fodder for montages — Lady Gaga’s confusing Madonna, learning how to use Instagram, insisting on a real world: a New Orleans prom theme — and very late-night vibes, of which there are ManySignificantly ineffective.
There are proven comic spaces in comparing the nature of life in high school then and now, something that 21 Jump Street handled so well, forcing leads to reshape their ideas about popularity and how to backpack. But here it’s just too broad with the film’s exaggerated vision of miniature kombucha-drinking activists who embrace the fluidity of their gender while trying to combat climate change, feeling sluggish and a little sassy, as if they were all written with an exhausted eye roll. The adult characters don’t shine too well either though there are soulful twists of Sam Richardson as an old friend with admiration, the happiest breakout season of Mary Holland as BFF-turned-manager, Justin Hartley as her old boyfriend and Zoe Chow trying to squeeze laughs out of some frustratingly uncouth dialogue as The former bitter bee. But despite the bloated runtime, the script still doesn’t find time to embody any of these dynamics, each missing a few vital hits.
Tonal, it’s ubiquitous, that aforementioned succulent oozing along with Wilson’s trademark rudeness, R-rated comedy and wanting to be both sweet and savory at the same time, a balance she could never achieve. So bite-sized jokes and exhausting put-downs like slut collide with Asinine’s Live Laugh Love lessons like “Why do you fit in when you can stand out?” And “The perfect life online means nothing when you’re miserable in real life,” likening the movie to an adorable kid in two shoes who just learned a dirty word.
The film’s intense nostalgia overload, aimed squarely at a thirty-year-old audience, is best summarized by a sequence where Wilson’s character lovingly re-enacts the video to Britney’s 1999 song (You Drive Me) Crazy. There is no attempt to add any real humor or any kind of creative spin to the performance, it’s just…. That scene, and the film’s use of pop culture in general, evoke Charles Bramesco’s insightful review of Ghostbusters: Afterlife, in which he noted “a peculiar breed of fans more interested in fixing things than what has been done with them.” For those who are already thrilled with the performative of pointing and gesturing to show they know what the signal for that song or TV show is, there’s plenty here to annoy the one you’re trying to impress, and others who ask for a little more may feel a little-changed. It’s also indicative of a certain kind of exhausting comedy where we expect to have fun just because those on screen seem to be, but that’s simply not enough and the end, with two The frenetic dance-music numbers, likewise fail to have the infectious effect their makers seem to believe they do.
The first year may get you a passing grade in sheer energy but for everything else, it’s a failure.