John Tucker Must Die

2006, Movie, PG-13, 87 mins

Review

JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE
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Leaving aside the fact that not one member of this teen picture's cast appears remotely young enough to be in high school, veteran director Betty Thomas' light revenge comedy is surprisingly entertaining, if less than original. Kate (Brittany Snow) is the definition of average: Cute but not stunning, smart but not too smart, desperate to fit in with the cool kids but only capable of blending in with the walls. She's so anonymous that her classmates hardly blink when she moves, which is often: If dating were an Olympic sport, her sexy mom (Jenny McCarthy) would be a medalist in revolving-door relationships. Kate's taken to calling all her mother's beaux "Skip": It's not as though any of them will be around long before they do just that, so why bother learning names? And then, one day, things change. Kate finds herself in the middle of a volleyball smackdown between three girls who've just learned they're all dating the same high-school hound dog, John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe). John's smooth on- and off-court moves have allowed him to individually convince head cheerleader Heather (Ashanti); school reporter and resident brainiac Carrie (Arielle Kebbel); and vegetarian activist Beth (Sophia Bush) that because he's not allowed to date during the season, they have to keep their romance top secret. Now that the secret is out, the betrayed trio and Kate combine their not-inconsiderable skill sets to make John Tucker pay. Things start off well: They launch a campaign to convince everyone he has genital herpes, and they put estrogen in his muscle-building supplements. But then the clever plots begin to backfire: John always comes out looking like a hero. After he decides to break it off with all three girls, the women scorned come up with their most devious plan yet: They decide to transform Kate into his dream girl, combining the most-appealing elements of all their personalities, and then when he's good and hooked they'll rip the rug out from under his smug, shallow, self-important self. Kate is so thrilled to have friends and be the center of attention that she fails to notice that she's losing track of who she really is, and her transformation imperils her real prospects: John's younger brother, Scott (Penn Badgley), was nursing a powerful crush on the invisible Kate, but her sudden popularity puts him off. Teen comedies are notoriously predictable, and screenwriter Jeff Lowell isn't out to rock the genre boat, but his smartly written dialogue and the infectious charm of the cast, particularly Snow and Metcalfe, add up to a winning combination. leave a comment --Angel Cohn

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