2011 Movies

Straw Dogs *spoiler alert*

I looked forward to Straw Dogs for a few reasons.  First off, it looks like my kind of movie: dark, unsettling, and potentially delving into some real human emotion and touching on some  intriguing psychological themes.  Secondly, it features a nice piece of man candy in Alexander Skarsgard, better known as vampire Eric Northman on HBO’s True Blood.  I like Kate Bosworth (Blue Crush) and James Marsden (X-Men: The Last Stand) too.  So it stands to reason I would have enjoyed Straw Dogs, a remake of the 1971 thriller of the same name which featured Dustin Hoffman.  Well, I didn’t dislike it but I can’t say I really enjoyed it either.

David and Amy Summer have relocated temporarily to Amy’s hometown in Mississippi for a reprieve from Hollywood.  David is a screenwriter and Amy is a modest television star.  Her father has recently died and they need to settle some things with his home.  At the local bar they meet Amy’s old high school flame Charlie, a tall handsome former football star that time has forgotten.  He and his cronies remember Amy well, and they haven’t changed much.  David is clearly out of his element, surrounded by hyper-masculine drunken good old boys who admire his Jaguar and wonder why his shoes have no laces.  Amy is every bit as lovely as she was in high school, and her fancy Hollywood lifestyle and husband stand in stark contrast to her humble beginnings.  It’s almost as if her selection of David as a mate is a rejection of Charlie and his way of life.  It sounds like a bit of a stretch, but Charlie makes it clear that he still has a thing for Amy.  His lascivious stare and inappropriate gestures are obvious, though David does nothing to discourage it.  In fact, he hires Charlie and his gang to patch up the roof of the barn next to their remote property.  His reasoning is that Charlie is an old friend of Amy’s, so why not give him some work.  This proves to be a decision that has devastating consequences.

Tensions rise out at the house, as Charlie and company start working.  They are already drooling over Amy, lamenting missed opportunity with her while inwardly snickering at her choice of man.  There is no excuse for their leering, but she doesn’t help matters by jogging around in barely-there shorts without a bra.  She complains to David, who tells her to dress more appropriately.  This scene is a bit of foreshadowing David’s inability to protect and defend his wife.  When the family cat is found hanging by its neck in the closet, Amy demands that David take action.  He seems reluctant to point the finger at Charlie and his gang, though it’s unlikely that anyone else could be responsible. Instead of confronting the men, David seems as if he is still looking for acceptance from them.  Instead of proving his manhood by sticking up for his wife and making her feel safe; he seeks to prove it by showing this group of goons that he’s one of them.  When they invite him to go hunting, he accepts.  Unbeknownst to David, the hunting excursion is really a ruse to get David to leave Amy unattended at the house.  While David roams about in the woods, Charlie and another crony invade the Sumner home and victimize his wife.  These are men that went to high school with Amy, they are not strangers.  They view her as an unattainable object, one that has transcended their current station in life.  I think it is just as much about David as it is Amy.  They don’t view him as a man.  They don’t respect his relationship with his wife and they question his ability to protect her.  Violating Amy is a twisted assertion of their manhood, and a cruel thing to witness.  Even more unsettling than Amy’s rape was the aftermath.  Amy doesn’t tell him what has happened, and he has no idea that his wife was violated by the same men he has refused to confront.  Now that David was duped into hunting and embarrassed, he is ready to fire Charlie and his men.  Amy calls him a coward, and we as viewers know why.  She can’t expect him to know intuitively that she was raped, but he’s done nothing to inspire confidence up until this point.

When David fires Charlie the next day, the stage is set for everything to come to a violent head.  When the local town hothead (James Woods) and former high school football coach comes looking for his daughter’s mentally-challenged would-be boyfriend on the Sumner property – things turn nasty when David refuses to give him up.   This was the final act of the movie, the big payoff.  I enjoyed seeing Charlie and his fellow brutes get their comeuppance, but the final scene did not undo my previous frustration.  Why is David more protective of a stranger he barely knows than he was of his own wife?  Straw Dogs had the potential, but something fell short.  I do think it captured the almost imperceptible delineation between football and religion in the South, and the simplistic but happy way of life found beyond the bustling metropolis.  Something was missing though. Perhaps the original is more rewarding.  I think I’ll cue up the Netflix…

Apollo 18

Historical fiction has an artificial authenticity that has the potential for excellent storytelling.  It makes the audience wonder, could this really have happened?  Where does fact end and fiction begin?  Apollo 18 had all the potential to be a provocative, conspiracy-driven movie, but instead it failed to deliver.  There were many more yawns than thrills.

The movie begins by telling us that the last officialU.S.mission to the moon was Apollo 17 in 1972, but that two years later a covert lunar mission took place, the details of which have been secret until now.  Footage was recovered from the landing, and that footage is the basis for the movie.  The movie is shot “home video” style, adding a supposed air of realism.  This usually works, except that the actor portraying Pilot Ben Anderson is so incredibly handsome that he looks more like a leading man than a real American astronaut.  Anderson and two other astronauts make a trip to the moon, purpose somewhat unknown.  The men can’t tell their families about the mission, and there will be no heroic widespread welcome for them upon their return.  They seem content with anonymity, secure in the belief that they are serving their country.  Two pilots will actually traverse the moon, while the third pilot remains aboard another vessel.  It takes a long time for anything remotely interesting to happen in this movie.  Sorry, just the sight of them walking on the moon was not cool enough for me.  There was a constant sense of foreboding, but that wasn’t enough to stave off my boredom.  Things finally got interesting when the two astronauts’ exploration of the moon revealed a set of foreign human footprints that do not much their space boots.  Next they discover a crashed Russian space vehicle.  They had no knowledge of Russian lunar activity, so they instantly are on high alert.  Fearing the Russians may be prowling the moon at that very moment, they continue investigating.  Deep inside a crater they find the corpse of a Russian cosmonaut.  The whole time that they’ve been on the moon they have been hearing an odd screeching noise, some sort of feedback over the radio waves.  They wonder if the strange noise could be related to the cosmonaut’s demise.  They discover that a moon rock collected the day before seems to have a life of its own, and later one of them is seemingly attacked by one of the rocks, as it turns into an extra-terrestrial spider and imbeds itself in the astronaut’s body.  When they re-board their vessel, Anderson attempts to extract the foreign object from his compatriot’s body.  It appears to have turned back into a rock, similar to the one that they collected before.  While all this is going on, Houston has reassured them that the feedback noise is not much cause for concern, and they aren’t sure what to make of Russian presence on the moon.

I’m going to end the re-cap there, because those are the highlights.  To sum it all up, the Department of Defense sent the three astronauts to the moon as sacrificial lambs on an ill-fated recon mission.  When they become infected by the extra-terrestrial spidery moon rock thingies, they are prohibited from returning to Earth and are left to die in space.  Ok, what did we learn here? Not much. The astronauts were able to confirm that the Russians were there and that there is something on the moon that doesn’t take kindly to visitors.  Was that worth sacrificing three American lives?  It doesn’t seem like it.  The payoff was weak, and it took an eternity to get there.  I was dumb enough to think that The Blair Witch Project was real at first, and fortunately I didn’t make that mistake here.  Apollo 18 had a great concept that could have made for a thought-provoking, eerie and unsettling movie.  Instead, it was a boring, tedious affair resulting in a disappointing conclusion.  I knew that I was supposed to feel sorry for the characters…but I just didn’t care.  And the arachnid moon rocks?  Lame! Save your money!

This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.

The Change-Up

I’m a huge hip hop fan. The once great rapper Nas once said, “No idea’s original, there’s nothing new under the sun.”  He wasn’t the first to express that sentiment, but it’s one with which I agree.  That’s what I thought of when I saw the trailer for The Change-Up, the latest in a long line of “switcheroo” comedies.  Oh, you know the formula.  There was a spate of such movies in the 80s with offerings like Vice Versa and 18 Again!  We’ve even seen this formula just couple of years ago with 17 Again, starring Zac Efron.  It’s hard to come up with something completely original, that’s why when I see innovative movies like Inception, I lose my mind.  But I digress.  Lots not talk about what The Change-Up isn’t; let’s talk about what it is.

Best buddies Mitch (Ryan Reynolds, Green Lantern) and Dave (Justin Bateman, Horrible Bosses) couldn’t be more different.  Mitch is a single Ladies’ Man with very few responsibilities.  He’s an on again/off again actor whose days consist largely of jerking off and smoking weed.  That might be fun for a 20 year old, but a grown adult male should have higher aspirations.  In contrast, Dave is a settled family man.  He’s married with three children and is completely devoted and responsible.  While hanging out one drunken night, they each lament their lifestyles.  Dave didn’t goof on his 20s like Mitch.  He was working his way through school and stepping up to the plate after having his first child.  He envies Mitch’s swinging single lifestyle and the endless parade of women.  Mitch is content with his life, but he admits that it would be nice to come home and be surrounded by people who genuinely care about you.  While relieving themselves in a fountain, they verbalize their wishes.  In a moment of movie magic, their lives are swapped.

When Dave awakes the next morning, it is Mitch that dwells within him.  Similarly, Dave’s spirit inhabits Mitch’s body.  With an important acting audition approaching for Mitch, and a big deal looming at the firm for Dave, the switch couldn’t have happened at a worse time.  Luckily Mitch makes it through the meeting and Dave survives the audition.  Swapping lives is full of potential pitfalls for each guy, from a tempting young associate at the firm for Dave to indiscriminate sexual encounters for Mitch.  Of course things aren’t all bad.  Mitch infuses Dave’s life with a carefree attitude, and Dave brings a degree of levity to Mitch’s haphazard lifestyle.  The problem is that Dave has to make sure his marriage is in a better place than he left it.  The trappings of success have taken the love and passion out of their relationship, and he’ll have to figure out how to get it back before it’s too late.

The Change-Up is what it is.  What is original? Hell no. Was it funny? Yes, for the most part it was.  It had the appropriate balance of humor and heart to make for a passable day at the movies.  The lead actors are likeable and charismatic and there were enough laughs to keep you satisfied.  I’m sure married men can relate to the partial surrender that comes along with marriage and kids, and what good is suffering if you can’t play it for laughs?  I heard plenty of chuckles in the theater.  You may have to temper your expectations a bit, but I thought The Change-Up was pretty funny and worth checking out.

This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.

Horrible Bosses

The great thing about the movies is that we get to see things that would NEVER happen in real life.  No matter how fantastic, far-fetched or unrealistic the scenario – film can make it happen.  More than that, there is often something about film that really portrays the human condition.  Comedies in particular most often embody the “everyman” quality to which most people can relate.  Horrible Bosses is one such movie.  Even if your boss isn’t horrible, we’ve all had a job that we’ve hated at one point in our lives.  The movie perfectly depicts the sheer hell of an unpleasant workplace, and the main characters are they types of Average Joes we can all root for.  The movie tells the story of three friends with bosses that are so hellacious that the only way they can live a peaceful, happy life is to get rid of them.  Permanently.

Before we can see what gives rise to the ultimate act of employee vengeance, we need to see just how bad things have to be for an employee to actually murder his boss.  Friends Nick (Jason Bateman, Couples Retreat) Kurt, (Jason Sudeikis, Hall Pass), and Dale (Charlie Day, Going the Distance) don’t just dislike their bosses, they endure daily torture.  Kurt actually liked his original boss, but when he dies and the man’s cokehead son (Colin Farrell, Pride and Glory) takes over the company, things take a turn for the worst.  Nick’s boss is Dave Harken (Kevin Spacey), a heartless a-hole and merciless dictator.  Part of the reason Nick has remained at the company for so long is because he assumes that he’s in line for a big promotion.  Like many worker bees, Nick eats crap at the job because he thinks it’ll pay off in the long run.  But when Harken absorbs the new position into his already existing responsibilities, giving it to no one, Kurt reaches his limit.  Harken is so mean that he wouldn’t even give Nick a few hours off to visit his grandmother on her deathbed.  Lucifer himself would have to give the nod to Harken.

What’s nearly as terrible as a Cokehead Cretan for a boss or the meanest S.O.B. in the world? How about a Maneater?  At first blush it seems that Dale’s horrible boss isn’t so bad.  What straight man wouldn’t mind being complimented by an attractive woman at work, even if she’s your boss, right? Wrong.  It’s not just inappropriate, it’s illegal.  Jennifer Aniston as Dr. Julia Harris takes things to a new level.  Despite the fact that Dales is engaged, Julia repeatedly makes sexual advances towards him at work, threatening to tell his fiancé that they “sealed the deal,” unless he actually goes through with it.  While performing a dental procedure on him the first week he was hired, she sedated him and posed him in lascivious positions.  As a matter of fact, I think she actually slept with him while in that state.  That’s rape, not exactly a laughing matter although it is played that way in the movie.

You might ask, why don’t they just quit?  The movie addresses that.  While discussing that very possibility at the local bar, they run into an unemployed old friend who has resorted to giving hand jobs in the men’s room to make ends meet.  That scares them enough to not go quitting all willy-nilly.  Plus Harken tells Kurt that if he quits he’ll essentially make sure that he’ll never work in this town again.  Who can afford to start from scratch at their age?  Not many people.  So, while the initial idea to eradicate the higher ups started in jest, things quickly take a serious turn and the guys hire Jamie Foxx to help them pull it off.  What follows is a pretty funny attempt to commit the perfect crime in order to live a life of happiness.  It’s not very realistic, but the actors have great comedic timing and it works for the most part.  An SNL alum, Sudeikis could probably do this in his sleep.  Jason Bateman continues his career resurgence and also has a great rapport with the other actors in the movie.  Finally, Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston were hilariously mean and raunchy.  I’ll bet they had a lot of fun making this movie.

Horrible Bosses had a lot of funny moments.  I’d say that it was on par with the Hangover 2, but not as funny as Bridesmaids, in my opinion.  There weren’t a lot of gross-out moments, and I appreciated that.  Things got a little silly at one point, but it didn’t detract from the overall comedic value of the movie.  Is it the can’t miss comedy hit of the summer? I wouldn’t say all that, but it’s pretty damn funny and has a good cast.  Well worth the cost of admission.

This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.

X-Men: First Class

I’ll admit it: I’m a complete movie dork.  When I first saw the trailer for X-Men: First Class, I literally felt my heart race.  The movie was released nationwide on July 3, but I contemplated buying tickets a day early. I enjoyed the first X-Men movie, but had been disappointed by a couple of the sequels.  This latest addition seemed a bit different, and I was intrigued from the start.  The trailer teased me with previously unseen images like a young Professor Xavier with a head full of hair, ambling about with his pal Magneto. What?! I was sold.

First Class details the inception of the X-Men, a ragtag band of mutants helmed by the brilliant, young Charles Xavier (wonderfully played by James McAvoy, Wanted).  The movie presumes that viewers will be familiar with characters already, but it is not necessary to have seen any of the previous X-Men movies.  However, your viewing experience will be enhanced if you bone up on its predecessors before seeing First Class. The movie begins in a concentration camp where we see a young Magneto (real name Erik Lehnsherr) being separated from his parents.  His angst reveals a curious reaction:  the ability to bend metal.  As he cries in anguish, the gate separating him from his family buckles under the force of his will.  This feat is observed by the watchful eye of Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon), a high level Nazi.  Seeking to harness young Erik’s power for his own purposes, he spares the boy’s life and summons him to his office, where he commands him to move a coin on his desk.  Only a boy, he does not fully understand the source of his power.  In a move that will forever shape Erik’s existence, Shaw produces Erik’s mother to spur him to action.  I won’t tell you exactly how a Nazi uses a Jewish boy’s mother as leverage against him, but use your imagination.  It isn’t pretty.  This early tragedy shapes Eric’s psyche and becomes the defining moment in his life.  He was not “normal” to begin with; how can he ever be normal now?  The movie moves forward to 1963, where Erik is in his 20s and has not forgotten the tragic events of his youth for one minute.  He is on a mission to find Sebastian Shaw and exact a measure of revenge.  It is the driving force within him.  Having mastered his powers, he will not be denied.

Shaw, a mutant himself – is now a nefarious nuclear arms dealer who has positioned himself in the middle of what is historically known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.  He wants to playAmericaandRussiaoff one another in hopes of starting a nuclear war whose aftermath will only be survived by mutants, allowing them to control the globe.  Meanwhile, theU.S.government has enlisted the help of Charles Xavier to understand the mutants who threaten international security.  James McAvoy infused Charles Xavier with a heretofore unseen charisma and panache.  We’re accustomed to Patrick Stewart in the role – older, serious, benevolent and wise.  I got a kick out of watching Xavier “spit game” to young women while his buddy Raven (Mystique) looked on.  First of all, Mystique goes on to become a villain, and I had no idea that she and Charles were once allies and friends.  Drawn together by their common abnormality, they displayed a familial kinship that reveals much about the circumstances that would shape these complex characters.  In their quest for Shaw, Charles and Erik cross paths and agree to work together – though they have very different agendas.  Charles wants to protect humanity, while Erik is wise enough to know that humans will turn on you in a minute.  He is concerned with avenging what happened to his mother, and nothing more.

I’ve said enough about the plot and won’t discuss it further.  There are too many details, and you have the gist of it.  I’d rather spend the remaining space discussing how the film revealed the circumstances that gave rise to characters with which we are already familiar.  Magneto (Michael Fassbender, Inglourious Basterds) Charles, and Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone) were very layered characters.  The movie dismantled the dichotomy between “hero” and “villain,” in my opinion.  Yes, Magneto will go on to become a diabolical, evil character.  But he was not always that way.  He was shaped and molded into a monster and had very little chance of becoming anything else.  Why protect a world and a species that detests you?  Charles was always “good,” but is there always honor in turning the other cheek?  Is that wise or foolhardy?  Ironically, it is Charles that teaches Magneto how to harness his power, and there are at least two scenes in the movie where they literally risk their lives for one another.  It’s amazing that they will go on to be mortal enemies.  Particularly powerful is the scene that finally reveals Charles’ hallmark paralysis.  I won’t spoil it for you.  Mystique and Magneto develop a bond because it is he who accepts her in her natural form, even more so than Charles.  She does not have the luxury of concealing her mutant abilities unless she exerts energy in changing into human form.  Magneto does not reject her blue skin; he embraces it.  With him she truly finds a home, and viewers can see the manner in which her allegiance was formed.  I was fascinated by all of these storylines, and that is why you would be disadvantaged if you were totally unfamiliar with the franchise or comic book before seeing First Class.  But unless you’ve been living under a rock, I assume you’ve seen at least one X-Men movie.

I enjoyed the way actual historical news footage of President Kennedy was interspersed in the move, and I appreciated the wardrobe of the 1960s as well.  I know that’s a weird thing to say, but mod fashion was a signature of the 1960s, and the filmmakers got it just right.  I’d be remiss if I left you thinking that the movie was perfect, because it was not.  The beginning tragic scene with Young Magneto and his mother failed to resonate with me as it should have.  Maybe that was my fault, I don’t know – but it didn’t do what it should have done: really move me.  I got that I was supposed to be moved, but I wasn’t.  Additionally, when the other viewers in my theater first saw Kevin Bacon, they laughed LOL. I don’t know why, I guess we weren’t expecting it.  It was kind of like oh he’s in this? *snicker*  He did a great job, but that was just everyone’s intial reaction.  Sorry Mr. Bacon.  Also, this film should in no way be compared to The Dark Knight, as some are suggesting.  Totally different movies…let The Dark Knight be. No one in this movie can sniff Heath Ledger’s performance and let’s just leave it at that.  All that being said, I give a ringing endorsement to X-Men: First Class. Grade: A-

This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.


Jumping the Broom

Sabrina Watson (Paula Patton, Just Wright) can’t seem to catch a break.  She’s young, beautiful, smart and successful.  The only thing missing from her perfect life is the perfect man.  When she meets Jason Taylor (Laz Alonso, Miracle at St. Anna) in a fortuitous accident, things seem to be looking up.  After a whirlwind romance, he proposes to her and they plan to marry on Martha’s Vineyard before moving toChina for Sabrina’s job.  There’s only one small problem – The Watsons and theTaylors have never met.  I’m sure any married couple can tell you that when you marry someone you’re not just marrying them; you’re marrying their family too.

Jumping the Broom is as much about the importance of family as it is about finding true love.  Jason and Sabrina don’t know each other very well, as they’ve only dated for six months before tying the knot.  Jason has met Sabrina’s parents, but his family remains a mystery until they show up for the nuptials.  When we first meet Jason’s mother (Loretta Devine, For Colored Girls) it’s no surprise that he was hesitant about introducing her.  She’s testy and rude and was determined to dislike Sabrina from the start.  Sabrina texted his mother that she was looking forward to meeting her (instead of calling personally), and Mama Taylor proclaims “Strike One!”  I’ll admit that a personal phone call may have been more appropriate, but did she really commit a cardinal sin here?  Mrs. Taylor undoubtedly loves her son, but that warm embrace turns smothering, and as time goes on she exposes Jason as a coddled Mama’s Boy who can’t find his own voice.  Sabrina’s mother (Angela Bassett, most recently of Notorious) is more refined and polite, but she’s a different brand of shrew.  She’s good at keeping up appearances, but she has a few secrets of her own, including a marriage on the rocks.  TheTaylors arrive on the Vineyard, including Jason’s uncle, cousin and his mother’s best friend.  The Watsons arrive as well, including Sabrina’s father, cousin and aunt.  At first I thought screenwriters Elizabeth Hunter and Arlene Gibbs portrayed some of the characters as caricatures, because NOBODY is that blatantly jealous, petty, and negative. But when I thought about it again, there are usually at least one or two relatives that can never seem to be happy for you, even when they should be.  When Jason’s mother pokes her nose in the Watson’s family business and exposes a long-held secret, the wedding is in jeopardy.  Does Sabrina really want to marry a man whose mother is determined to hate her?  Will Jason stand up to her and find a backbone?  If a man can’t tell his mother “no,” before the wedding, what’s going to change afterwards?  Mama Taylor must decide if she wants to gain a daughter-in-law or lose a son, the choice is simple and difficult at the same time.

Laz Alonso and Paula Patton did a fine job with their performances, and they had a natural chemistry.  I think Paula Patton should continue to refine her abilities, but she held her own in scenes with Angela Bassett, whose performances are usually above reproach.  Romeo Miller, DeRay Davis, Tasha Smith, and Meagan Good were effective in their supporting roles, but I have to give the nod to Mike Epps (Lottery Ticket) as the comedic voice of reason for his bitter sister who could not seem to loosen the maternal grip on her son.  I enjoyed the movie and found it heartwarming, but there were a few cringe-worthy bits of dialogue.  As the fish-out-of-waterTaylors arrived on the Vineyard, they passed a few boats.  Those boats have nothing to do with the slave trade, but upon seeing them a character remarked that he feared being shipped back toAfrica.  After finding out that Jason and Sabrina would be moving toChina another asked, “Do they even allow Black people inChina?”  I find jokes like these trite, exasperating, and humorless.  I know the writers wanted to contrast the Taylors and Watsons, but that contrast didn’t have to be so sharp.  I guess if you highlight the divisions between the families so pointedly, it makes it all the more sweet when everyone kisses and makes up in the end.  At the end of the day, I enjoyed the movie and would encourage those viewers who dislike Tyler Perry not to draw any comparisons to some of his films.  It was a pleasant outing at the movies that reinforced the importance of love and family, and what could be more appropriate on Mother’s Day weekend?  Check it out.

This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.


The year was 1997. What should have been an unforgettable night ended up being an unmitigated disaster.  Oh yeah, my prom was unforgettable alright, but it was for all the wrong reasons.  My dress was an amateur creation, a homemade mess that bore no resemblance to the picture I’d given my aunt to use as an example of what I wanted.  My date was the first available guy I could find, some kid who worked at a shoe store at the mall.  He was an underclassman, but it was the best I could do.  The night ended in tears.  Like I said, it was unforgettable.  I understand that the prom is a big deal, so I was curious to see the Disney movie titled, quite simply: Prom.

The movie opens with a quick glimpse into the lives of several students at anIllinoishigh school.  The senior class is all abuzz with excitement.  High school seniors tend to mentally “check out” around spring break, as prom and graduation approach, and after those college acceptance letters start rolling in.  The movie is told primarily through the eyes of Nova, a high-achieving “most likely to succeed” type of kid who gets good grades and is very involved in school activities.  Nova is consumed with the prom. As chair of the prom committee she has been carefully crafting decorations for a magical “Starry Night” to send the senior class off with a bang.  Nova doesn’t have a date, but she hopes thatBrandon, also on the prom committee, will eventually ask her.  When he offhandedly suggests that they carpool together, she half-heartedly accepts.  All around the school, boys are coming up with creative and romantic ways to ask that special someone to the prom.  Here is where fantasy comes into play, because high school boys are simply not that sensitive, creative or romantic.  You would think they were extending marriage proposals with all the effort they were expending.  When resident jockTylerasks his cheerleader girlfriend to the big dance, he does it in the shed where the newly completed prom decorations are housed.  He set up a picnic with candles, but when he forgets to blow one of them out before they leave, all of the decorations go up in flames.  Nova is devastated, and the prom is in jeopardy.  The principal decides to force the school’s rebel without a cause to give Nova a hand, or else he won’t graduate.  Said rebel is named Jesse, and he was reprimanded earlier for cutting class.  Jesse hates the idea of prom, and only views it as a stupid reason for vapid kids to stand around in the gym listening to a lame DJ while drinking punch.

It turns out that Jesse has a sensitive side, and the reason he cuts class is so that he can pick his little brother up from school while their mother works overtime at her job.  Despite his rough exterior, he is actually kind – and he begins to see the prom through Nova’s eyes.  Although he thinks it’s silly, he appreciates the dedication she puts into making it special and even begins to buy into the idea himself.  Movies about high school tend to depict its characters in clearly-defined, rigid stereotypes.  This is somewhat realistic, if you think about it.  High schoolers tend to adhere to the social pecking order.  To that end, Prom is no exception.  There is The Overachiever, The Jock, Ms. Popularity, The Bad Boy, and finally: The Shy Kid.  The shy kid here is Lucas, and underclassman who can’t work up the nerve to approach Simone, his crush.  Unbeknownst to Lucas, Simone has a past withTyler, whose own prom date situation is in jeopardy.  Will he ever work up the nerve to ask her out?  I’m sure you’re waiting for that answer with baited breath (insert winky face here).

All jokes aside, Prom was a sweet little movie.  I definitely was not part of Disney’s target audience, but I’ll admit that it was not the unwatchable teeny bopper vehicle that I anticipated.  It is definitely not in the same league of classic 1980s high school movies like Pretty in Pink or The Breakfast Club, but it adequately captured the jittery unfamiliarity all teens experience as they navigate their way to young adulthood.  Take the ‘tween in your life to check it out – you won’t be disappointed.

This article first appeared at www.poptimal.com and was reprinted with permission.