Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: Jawbreaker (1999)

Jawbreaker (1999)

What happens when you try to remake Heathers with none of that film's wit, charm, intelligence, social commentary, or reason for existing? You get Jawbreaker, a brainless teen "comedy" that's too impressed with its "edgy" subject matter and its gorgeous cast to realize that none of its jokes are funny, or that the plot falls to pieces the moment you apply any thought to it. It starts off with a dark, intriguing premise -- a clique of high school queen bees accidentally kills one of their own, and try to cover it up -- that could've made for some twisted black comedy, but it ruins it with a mess of utterly insane plot decisions that require every character in the film to be mentally handicapped. This suggests that either some hasty rewrites were done and little effort was made to make them gel with the film, or that writer/director Darren Stein had his head lodged firmly in his rectum.

The two biggest gaping plot holes on display here both come early in the film, which means that not only were they on my mind for most of the runtime, but I don't have to put up spoiler warnings because they're not particularly twists. The first has to do with the cover story that Liz's friends cook up to explain away her death, which is insultingly stupid right away. They claim that she had been raped and murdered, and Courtney (Rose McGowan) invents a story that Liz was a slut who went to bars and slept with random dudes so that nobody in school would find out. Courtney even has sex with a guy in Liz's bed after the fact in order to leave bodily fluids behind and sell the story. The problem here is obvious to anybody who knows even the slightest thing about police forensics or, failing that, seen even one episode of Law & Order: SVU -- the police would've checked Liz's corpse for signs of sexual assault. Even ignoring the fact that Liz is stated to have still been a virgin when she died, the detective Vera Cruz (Pam Grier, in a woefully underused role) should've had no problem proving that Liz wasn't raped, destroying Courtney's story, and throwing her in jail for manslaughter by the end of the first act.

But wait, there's more! For the second barrel of 12-gauge dumbshot, a nerdy girl named Fern (Judy Greer) finds out about how the main characters killed Liz, leading Courtney to offer her friendship in exchange for keeping the secret. Fern, desperate to be accepted by the "in crowd", agrees to Courtney's offer, and is soon remade as a gorgeous blonde named Vylette. Let's ignore, for a second, the illogic of Fern helping to cover up the death of the girl that she idolized (and it's made perfectly clear that Fern had a borderline-lesbian obsession with Liz) in exchange for the friendship of her killers. Absolutely none of Fern's classmates recognize her, with most of the school thinking that Vylette and Fern were literally two different people; again, a crappy cover story is made up of Fern being sick to explain why she's not in school. Making this even worse is that the faculty and Detective Cruz do seem to acknowledge that Fern and Vylette are the same person -- so which is it? The entire Fern/Vylette story is eventually concluded in a manner so stupid that I was ready to scream at my computer monitor -- posters of Fern pre-makeover are hung up all over school with the caption "Who is Vylette?", and suddenly everybody recognizes the girl who looks kinda like Fern, sounds kinda like Fern, and mysteriously transferred to the school just after Fern went out sick. I felt like I was watching a really bad cartoon whenever Fern/Vylette showed up on the screen.

But when you're reviewing a comedy, the most important concern is, "am I laughing?" Unfortunately, no, I wasn't. This film would have a hard climb winning my approval even if it had been side-splittingly hilarious, but there are hardly any laughs to be had here. The few actual jokes on display mostly had me rolling my eyes, and the jokes are very few indeed; the film seems to be trying to handle its subject matter with a completely straight face, letting only the light-hearted tone indicate that this is supposed to be a comedy. This puts the focus squarely on the plot and the acting as the only things that this film has to keep my interest, and I've just spent half this review detailing my problems with the writing here. Furthermore, the acting is all over the map, and more often than not, it seems either phoned-in or way too over-the-top. The style here also takes some inexplicable turns for the bizarre and trippy in a number of scenes, throwing off the film's coherence.

Score: 1 out of 5

Heathers this ain't. This movie goes flying off the rails almost from the start and never makes any effort to get back on track, with some plot points forgotten in the very next scene. On top of that, it's not all that funny or well-made, either. I'm grateful that I watched this on YouTube, as the only thing I wasted was ninety minutes of my time. Avoid this movie.

No comments:

Post a Comment