John Tucker Must Die review by Mike Long

I've written before about the fact that movies are indeed fiction and how reality typically has little-to-no place in film. However, most movies ask us to suspend our disbelief to some extent. This works for some and not so much for others. For myself, I simply ask that a movie set up a series of rules for its reality and then stick to them. John Tucker Must Die is set in a high-school, a setting which most of us can grasp and understand. Yet, this school is more like a soap-opera than any learning establishment that I've ever witnessed and this fact immediately sullies the film. Unfortunately, lack of believability is the least of this movie's problems.

John Tucker Must Die focuses on the tumultuous lives of a group of high-schoolers. Kate (Brittany Snow) is new in town, and is the kind of person who has never stood out in a crowd. She gets a job at a fancy restaurant, and she immediately notices that school stud John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe) has a habit of bringing different girls to the establishment for romantic dinners -- namely over-achiever Carrie (Arielle Kebbel), cheerleader Heather (Ashanti), and socially-conscious Beth (Sophia Bush). While in gym class, Carrie, Heather, and Beth overhear one another bragging about being John Tucker's girlfriend and a fight ensues. Kate, having seen the girls being lead on by this guy, chastises the trio for fighting with one another, instead of going after John. Heather, Carrie, and Beth agree and they hatch a plan. They will give Kate a makeover and position her so that John falls for her. Then, she will hurt him in the same way that he hurt his "girlfriends". Kate is unsure of this plan, but she desperately wants to fit in, so she goes along with it. However, she's not prepared for how charming John truly is. Will she be true to her new friends, or will she fall for John?

In the film, the girls want a hunky boyfriend but find themselves with a conniving louse. Based on the film's title, I wanted a dark teenaged comedy -- a Heathers for the new millennium. Sadly, everyone walked away from this film unsatisfied.

The basic problem with John Tucker Must Die is that it wants to be everything at once, and never succeeds at being anything but mediocre. Once the central premise arrives -- the idea that Kate will be used to get back at John -- many viewers may be reminded of 10 Things I Hate About You. The movie is never really very funny and the story becomes very muddled at times, as it becomes scene after scene of Kate trying to resist John. Also, this is an oddly "female centric" film, as the movie features four female lead characters and a handsome young man in a starring role. Some male viewers may feel woefully left out. And, getting back to my earlier point, the film doesn't come close to doing justice to its title. If anything, the movie could have used much more of a mean streak.

It's a shame that the story falls flat in John Tucker Must Die, as the cast is engaging and quite game. Jesse Metcalfe is perfectly cast in the role of John. He's handsome enough so that females will find him attractive and males will instantly dislike him. And yet, despite the fact that he's a dick to his girlfriends, he still comes across as a pretty nice guy. Brittany Snow, who was the anchor for the show American Dreams is good as Kate, and brings a much needed believable center to the unrealistic goings on in the film. (Note how she's the main character in the film, but she's shoved off to the left on the DVD cover art.)

Director Betty Thomas has made a career of directing incredibly bland films and John Tucker Must Die is just another notch on her resume. The movie does contain some mildly funny moments, but most of them were glimpsed in the trailer. The film may appeal to teenagers, but anyone looking for a high school movie which has sense of realism or any real laughs should look elsewhere.

John Tucker Must Die cheats its way onto DVD courtesy of 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The DVD features both the widescreen and full-frame versions of the film. For the purposes of this review, only the widescreen one was viewed. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. Overall, the image looks good, but there are some minor issues. The image is fairly sharp and clear, but there is some mild grain in some scenes. The colors are and look realistic. However, flesh tones look very waxy in some shots and artifacting is noticeable at times. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides good sound for a comedy. The track gives us clear dialogue and sound effects with no hissing or distortion. Stereo effects are very good, as are the surround effects, which come alive during the crowd scenes. The film features several bass-heavy songs which awaken the subwoofer.

The two-sided John Tucker Must Die contains a number of extras. Director Betty Thomas and editor Matthew Friedman provide an AUDIO COMMENTARY for the film. Their talk is somewhat interesting, as they comment on the locations and actors, but they don’t sound very excited about the movie, and they never talk about the story or the origin of the script. The extra on the widescreen side start with “Grrrl Power” (4 minutes) which focuses on how female-centric the film is. In “Cutting Class with Jesse Metcalfe” (4 minutes), the star takes us on a tour of the set. The cast talk about their own high school years in “Kodiak Yearbook” (4 minutes). On the full-frame side, we find 2 DELETED SCENES, which have optional commentary from Thomas. Metcalfe and Thomas talk about the basketball scenes in “On the Rebound” (2 minutes). “Dating Quiz” (3 minutes) is simply a promo spot for the film. The MUSIC VIDEO “Instantly Gratified” by People in Planes is simply taken from the movie. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the movie. The DVD contains both the theatrical cut of the film, as well as an extended cut. But, as far as I can tell, this extended cut is only about 8 seconds longer.

5 out of 10 Jackasses

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