John Tucker Must Die

2006-11-24 17:27

Kate (Brittany Snow) has gotten used to being invisible. Her mom’s cycle of dating jerks, breaking up messily and then moving to a new town has meant she’s never really settled anywhere. All that changes when she arrives at John Tucker’s (Jesse Metcalfe) high school. She’s seen plenty of school studs, but never one brazen enough to date three girls at the same time. His secret? Only date girls from different cliques. After all when would head cheerleader Heather (Ashanti Douglas) ever talk to school reporter Carrie (Arielle Kebbel), or vegan activist Beth (Sophia Bush)? When the three accidentally do find out, Kate suggests that, instead of fighting among themselves, they teach “Tuck” a lesson he’ll never forget. After all, what better revenge on a guy like John than to destroy his reputation? And who better to engineer his downfall than a girl with a PHD in jerkology?


To look at it you’d think John Tucker Must Die was just another dumb teen comedy full of tired cliches about high school life. But, while that isn’t very far from the truth, it also misses the point. The movie maybe be dumb and predictable, but it’s also irresistibly good fun. As it cartwheels along with gay abandon, you can’t help but be reminded of one of those stereotypically peppy cheerleaders. You may have heard the cheers a million times before, but somehow this time they amuse instead of annoy.

It would nice to give credit to the script for single-handedly saving the film but, despite the nifty revenge angle, it’s the confident direction by Betty Thomas that really makes the difference. Thomas, who began her career as an actor on TV’s Hill Street Blues, is a filmmaker of uncertain talents. Her previous work has ranged from quite good (28 Days) to awful (I-Spy), but she is certainly on form here. She keeps proceedings as blithe and breezy as possible, never letting us think too hard about the more serious aspects of what is being portrayed.

In fact the movie’s most valuable assets is that it never takes itself too seriously, and never does more than skate along the surface. This kind of superficiality would normally be a drawback, but here it becomes an advantage. Since there are no real consequences on the horizon, no heavy messages waiting in the wings, we can relax and enjoy the fluffy, sugary nonsense being served up. Both Thomas and the cast have particular fun with the elaborate revenge sequences which are far more goofy than they are truly mean.

The script by first-timer Jeff Lowell deserves some credit. Granted, on a macro scale Lowell has done little more than tack a cute premise onto a pile of recycled high-school-movie garbage, but it’s at the micro level that Lowell really excels. The movie is full of the kind of inane but snappy banter that teen movies thrive on, as well as marvelously quirky little details that add to the dumb-but-fun atmousphere.

As far as the acting (or lack thereof) goes, the cast are mainly there to look pretty and confident, and perhaps spit out a few wisecracks. Oh, they’re all as loveable and charming as can be, with Jesse Metcalfe (the hot gardener from Desperate Housewives) leading the charge, but not one of them can act worth a damn. The engaging lead, Brittany Snow, has some potential, if only she’d spend less time on putting on the goo-goo eyes and more on actually acting.

Is John Tucker Must Die going to reach deep into your soul, touch your heart, or even teach you something interesting? Not bloody likely! Is it going to tickle you for 90 minutes and then leave you giggling and without the feeling of being cheated out of R40? Most assuredly. It’s this year’s Mean Girls and fans of the genre shouldn’t miss it for the world.

- Alistair Fairweather
John Tucker Must Die may be dumb, but there's something deeply satisfying about watching the school stud get the punishment he deserves.

Jason 2006/09/18 8:31 PM
Jonh tucker must die I found this movie extreamely funny at parts, but I woudent reccomend it to adults it's more of a teen movie
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