DOASKDOTELL MOVIE REVIEWs of Kids in America, Boot Camp, A Wrinkle in Time, Chasing Holden, Igby Goes Down, Brick, High School Musical, (2) (3), Colma: The Musical, Hoot , The Climb; Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life; Strangers with Candy; Fallen ; The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Teaching Mrs. Tingle, Charlie Bartlett, The Stepfather, The Covenant

 

Title:  Kids in America

Release Date:  2005

Nationality and Language: USA, English

Running time: 97 min

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Distributor and Production Company: Launchpad, Slow Hand Cinema (and TheWB/Warner Independent Pictures??)

Director; Writer: Josh Stolberg; written Josh Stolberg, Andrew Shaifer (and Gregory Smith?)

Producer: Andrew Shaifer

Cast:   Gregory Smith, Alex Anfanger, Stephanie Sherrin, Chris Morris, Katie Carmichael, Emily Chua, Julie Bowen, Malik Yoba, Andrew Shaifer

Technical:  standard aspect, 35mm, dolby digital

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site:  1st Amendment, student and teacher free speech

 

When I designed the backcover of my first “Do Ask Do Tell” book I somehow miscalibrated the age of the Bill of Rights, saying it was 160 years; and many copies I hand-applied a sticker to change the number to 210. I did correct this for the second printing, of course. I don’t know how that happened; many eyes missed it. Actually, the date of the Bill of Rights (12/15/1791) is the accepted date in history books – (here is a good web reference: http://www.magnet1.com/constitution.htm ) - figures in to the story, as “The Kids” plaster their high school lockers and walls with “12/15” as one of their peaceful protest tactics against Principal Weller (Julie Bowen) in this drama-comedy of constructive student rebellion.

 

The story features several incidents early on, as Weller suspends a girl for wearing condoms on her dress (when the girl claims to be promoting abstinence), suspends another for an overly graphic paragraph written in a free journal period in English class (a short journal period in a notebook is a common practice in high school English), and then suspends and then expels Holden Donovan (Gregory Smith) for a stunt in a school acting performance.

 

Now here we have to get into more of the setup. Most of the action centers around film, drama, and English classes where the kids are making videos and setting up short drama skits. (On a substitute teaching assignment last year I actually supervised a class where “kids” edited an entertaining instructional film on chemistry, using Premiere and other editing tools.)  One girl has made a video “manifesto” appeal to protest the brutal practice of female clitoral mutilation in some African societies, and her teacher asks (“ask why!”) if it would not have been more appropriate to pick a cause that affected her own family or environment more directly. (This is a good question that probes into the moral underpinnings of one’s own speech.) The tension has been building when Holden pulls off his stunt.

 

He starts with the famous Hamlet (“play within a play”) “To be or not to be,” and hesitates. Then he goes on an effective monologue to protest the administrations treatment of several specific student efforts and then says that he is “not to be.”  He then fakes suicide and slitting his wrists, then of course gets up and demos the prop underneath his long sleeve hiding the fake blood. (I’ve known of HIV patients who hide iv’s at work this way, even when working as flight attendants.)  Of course, the administration is “very offended.”

 

Expelled, Holden rather takes over the movie, leading more protests and arranging to rig the microphone systems at school. There is another rather charismatic out gay student Lawrence Reitzer (newcomer Alex Anfanger) who has made a strategic opening appearance in the film nude except for boxer shorts, revealing what is essentially a perfect teenage male body (at least according to many tastes). (There is a photo shot of that scene on rogerebert.com’s review of the film.) Alex has sung and participated in a pivotal manner in various classes. Then he suddenly falls into the (false) gay stereotype when he can’t climb rope in gym class (it would appear that the real life actor would have no problem doing so).  During all the protests, Alex kisses his boyfriend in the school hall within sight of The Principal, and is of course suspended, too. (Who is going to be left behind?)  So Holden engineers all the students to engage in a same-sex kiss-out in front of The Principal. All of this from a character who is cast as energetically heterosexual in his own life as possible, with various making out scenes.

 

Holden will then get himself and several other kids thrown in jail when they try to burn a sign (even using laser alignment pointers) onto the football field to defeat Weller’s bid for election to the School Board.  Lawrence catches on fire in a terrifying moment and is hospitalized, although fortunately his (second degree) burns are not that serious. It’s not clear that this was necessary for the story.

 

Is Holden named after the J. D. Salinger character from The Catcher in the Rye? It seems that his is much more forceful.

 

Apart from Alex Anfanger, in fact, Gregory Smith dominates this movie so thoroughly as the puppetmeister that it seems to me the movie must have been partly his idea. He does play the part as “Ephram plus” (for those viewers familiar with his work as the teenage piano prodigy Ephram in Everwood). He talks with the same colorful metaphors that seem to be Smith’s own personality.   A the end, during the closing credits, he has a six minute “disco break dancing” kiss-out (part of it on the hood of a car), his shirt very loose and half-open as he tries to set a time record. The viewer can look for a couple of minor technical directorial errors here (or maybe there is double entendre).

 

This film is coming out as a platform release, and when I saw it in Arlington VA and an AMC theater on a Sunday afternoon I was the only one in the auditorium. Obviously the film is intended primarily for Cable and DVD. Since TheWB has advertised it on its own network, I would think WB could promote it more successfully if it took over formal distribution (as WIP). It is interesting that this political comedy was released at the same time as Warner Independent Pictures’s hit about McCarthyism, “Good Night, and Good Luck.” And this comedy is one of the most important films of the year, even given the likelihood of a budget under, say, $1 million.

 

***

 

I want to make a note here, to, about the legal issues regarding free speech in schools. There have been many cases over the years. Generally, school administrations can control student speech and teacher on-premises (particularly classroom) speech that would disrupt the school environment or undermine the credibility of accepted curricula. (With gay and lesbian issues in many areas of the country, this can be a problem, as it may also be with some parents.) At one point in the film, principal Weller draws an analogy between her control of students and the Patriot Act after 9/11, a comparison that is obviously inappropriate. There is a paradox here: the school wants to develop critical thinking skills in its students, so it would seem to need freedom of expression. But in public schools, even high schools, students vary so much in cognitive skills with abstract thought that many students need a carefully nurtured environment.

 

Off-campus speech is more edgy, and the legal barrier that a school system would face in proving a student’s or a teacher’s speech to be disruptive would probably he higher. Even so, the presence of the Internet and World Wide Web raises unprecedented issues because of the Web’s global pervasiveness. There have been issues with regard to student web sites that grade or criticize teachers, as well as those that promote certain cultures perceived as anti-social (Gothic, or even gangs). Students have sometimes made statements from home computers that were perceived as threats and have been disciplined as a result. Teacher speech on the Web could become an issue if students found it through search engines and if the speech was somehow perceived as offensive or disruptive. Yet, one would not want schools to be able to censor the content of teacher off-duty speech. Therefore, the responsibilities of the teacher (at least if he or she is responsible for grading students) to mediate his own speech on the Web sounds like a potentially serious subject, maybe for another movie (maybe even mine).

 

Here are some legal references on free speech in public schools:

 

http://www.electronic-school.com/199903/0399ewire.html

 

http://www.aclu-wa.org/Issues/freespeech/04-17-03-FreeSpeechRightsTeachers.html

 

http://www.cla-net.org/resources/articles/minow_libraryspeech.php

 

 

http://www.prospect.org/web/page.ww?section=root&name=ViewPrint&articleId=4373

 

http://www.lambdalegal.org/cgi-bin/iowa/cases/documents.html?record=382

 

Gregory Smith and Lee Norris (One Tree Hill) sponsor “The U” on TheWB:

http://thewb.warnerbros.com/web/o_generic_blank.jsp?id=WB-The+U

 

I would recommend showing this film along with John Stossel’s ABC 20/20 documentary “Stupid in America: How We Cheat Our Kids”.

 

Also, compare to Freedom Writers (2007, Paramount), link below.

 

Boot Camp (2007, MGM/20th Century Fox/Nomadic CD, dir. Christian Duguay) Gregory Smith, about 24 when he made this and now totally virilized, plays the Holden Caulfield good guy who pretends to be bad to get admitted to a Tough Love (“Serenity”) boot camp for delinquents in the Fijis to rescue a girl friend and expose the Tough Love company as a dangerous scam. Smith’s acting is an interesting mixture of adolescent fervor and grown up idealism: his voice is curiously effective when he tells people off, as when he calls Sophie’s father a “prick” to his face, and later when he tries to save another camper’s life.  Smith should have an interesting career ahead.  Blogger. 

 

A Wrinkle in Time (2003, Dimension/Disney Channel, dir. John Kent Harrison, novel by Madeleine l’Engle, UK, G, 128 min).  Gregory Smith is the good neighbor kid who accompanies the kids in the next house to another planet to look for their physicist dad caught in a time warp. Great ideas for what it’s like on other planets. Blogger.

 

Chasing Holden (2001, Lions Gate/Christopher Eberts, dir. Malcolm Clarke, 104 min, R). When I was substitute teaching, I had one assignment where the students had to write an in-class book report/review on their summer reading. Some students had selected J. D. Salinger’s famous 1951 novel about teenage rebellion with its protagonist Holden Caulfield. We all know the book – The Catcher in the Rye. I read it in the eyebrow barracks at Fort Eustis, VA in 1968 when I was in the Army, as did some other soldiers who called themselves Rado Suhl, the Walrus, the Ocelot.  The detailed book reviews in that class (other writers chosen included Clive Cussler) were well written, sometimes worthy of commercial publication.  Salinger (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/J._D._Salinger ), born in 1919, has lived as a recluse and has not published since 1965. He resisted quotes of unpublished letters in an unauthorized biography in a famous case. Apparently he does not allow the book to be filmed. So this story about a troubled kid who goes on the lam with a girl friend to “stalk” him is the closest thing to a film adaptation that can exist.  I remember a sentence from the book early on, “old guys’ legs are so white and unhairy.” The movie talks about some episodes in the book, as Holden’s pretending to be deaf-mute in one sequence. Note, by the way, the leading character’s first name (“Holden”) in the movie above, “Kids in America.” It seems intentional.

 

Now the kid, Neil Lawrence (JD Qualls) has been returned to a boarding school in Pennsylvania by his wealthy dad after getting out of a mental hospital. It seems that he had attempted to slit his wrists after a younger brother committed suicide when Dad harassed the brother for being gay, claiming that a “faggot” would stain the family name. Yes, people thought that way, and the whole Holden thing is very much about breaking up the artificial hold that families have on their kids because of the blood loyalty that they supposedly owe back. (A gay person is the rebel because he will not give children, supposedly.) Now Neil, is in fact, enthusiastically heterosexual, although that doesn’t make too much difference. He runs away with girl friend T. J. Jensen (Rachel Blanchard), whom we learn has a hidden brain aneurysm that could pop at any time. His motive: to track down J. D. Salinger and meet him, because the prep school English teacher (Sean Kanan) has assigned a kind of pseudo book report: write a fantasy about what happens to Holden Caulfield after the end of the book. Neil cannot imagine his own story, and insists on getting it from the horse’s mouth. He does run into misadventures, some of them in New York City where, at one point, he points out the apartment building (the Dakota) where John Lennon was murdered by Mark David Chapman (12/8/1980) holding a copy of the novel. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lennon ). In one sequence he seems to have located Salinger in the country and stalks him, but then lets him go. He must then deal with T. J.’s tragic end.

 

Igby Goes Down (2002, United Artists, dir. Burr Steers, 97 min, R) A 17 year old Igby (Kieran Culkin) flunks out of some prep schools and then winds his away among the Manhattan rich and becomes the darling of older women, although this world of privilege will not live up to his expectations. With Claire Danes, Amanda Peet, Jeff Goldblum, Ryan Philippe, Bill Pullman.  Rory Culin plays Igby at 10. Compare to “Charlie Bartlett”.  

 

Brick (2005, Focus/Bergman Lustig, dir. Rian Johnson, 110 min, R). Well, here we have “the Kids” again, high school students with their self-contained worlds of intrigues and politics. And here, it’s organized crime. This film won a special prize at Sundance. Geeky loner 17-year-old Brendan Fry (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) investigates the disappearance of his girl friend. Soon he finds her corpse at the mouth of a sewage tunnel. With all the right moves, he infiltrates a high school drug ring. After a meeting with an assistant principal (Richard Roundtree) we realize that he may have been “hired” undercover. But Brendan is indeed the perfect kid for the role. His character is a cross between Seth Cohen (The O.C.) and Clark Kent (Smallville) without powers. He, it turns out, has Marine-like fitness and is very hard to put away in a fight, despite his geek glasses. It’s a little hard to believe he could really infiltrate a crime ring because he is too clean – never smoking or doing coke or heroin (I’m told that “brick” is slang for heroin -- but search engines show that the term is commonly used for both drugs -- and to me they all look the same, even if they aren't) himself. He will eventually finger the guilty party, and there will be some surprise. But the teen seems to have moral dominance over everyone else, sort of the way Clark does in Smallville. Gordon-Levitt is a powerful and agile young actor to watch. By the way, the title of the movie refers to a brick of "drugs", but “Brick” was also the name of the main male character of Tennessee Williams’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”

As one comment to me says, the storyline and narrative style of this film is very laconic, and presents the character is a singleminded fashion, in order to keep the viewer hooked. That's a screenwriting issue. I came away wanting to know a lot more about the character and the rest of his life, including school. This character could be a good focus for a CW-type series.

 

Perhaps no one is really sumptuous in these two movies, but then there is…. 

 

High School Musical (2006, Walt Disney Pictures/Disney Channel/Salty Pictures, dir. Kenny Ortega, G, 125 min including dance-along extra). In television and movies, this is becoming the era of the super-kids. And it is now “in” to be the gaudy, flashy, colorful male, just as in the natural bird world (where the males have bright colors).  Although this movie lauds just being a great high-school kid, it stands out as a kind of songfest and dancefest, which would resist comparison to other, much more dramatic films and shows about high school (including those on this page). Nevertheless, these “kids in America” – and they are presented visually as perfect kids, even if related to a Disneyworld paradigm, something you would see at the Florida theme park – indeed Fantasyland-- on New Years Day. The story, in fact, is said to take place in Albuquerque, NM and the movie was filmed in Utah (like many Everwood episodes). And this is the long awaited leading role for super clean cut nice guy Zac Efron, aka Cameron Bale from TheWB’s Summerland. Here his “aka  alias is Troy Bolton, and his job is to look a bit like superman. He has at least three talents, basketball (his dad is the basketball coach), and song and very athletic dance moves. So his problem is to be in two high school competitions at the same time. Oh, yes, there is the “evil” drama teacher who tries to stop the double auditioning. In the final scene, he has to be on the basketball court and stage at the same time, in simultaneous performances. That would not be a problem if you were Clark Kent. Troy is not quite a kryptonian alien, though, and needs a manipulative solution to the “dramatic” problem posed by the movie’s logline. Despite the G rating and Disney “Mousketeer” mood, there is the obligatory locker room scene, late on, with Zac Efron posing shirtless, and it does look like he could sub for Tom Welling. In fact, the movie borrows the garish “Normal Rockwell” set colors (too much orange) from Smallville, and a lot of familiar boy band music, that must have cost millions for licenses to use in the movie.  There are a couple of legitimate classroom scenes (welcome) with balancing chemistry equations and physics problems (good old s = ½ g t**2) on a whiteboard, and even a chemistry lab experiment that goes awry intentionally (was that KMnO4 ?) to set up a situation.

 

The film was punctuated by dance lessons, instructed by Zac Efron and (I think) Lucas Gabreel. They were detailed, and rehearsed half speed and full speed, and executed with precision, as if the cast were also prepared for ballet (which is actually very demanding athletically). When I was a substitute teacher, I had the pleasure of subbing three days in a drama class where a professional dance company was instructing the high school kids, and the dance moves, body mechanics and instruction of the real life lessons at a northern Virginia high school were similar to those in the movie. So all that is left here is for Jon Heder to come on as Napoleon Dynamite with his own dance moves. Compare to Camp, below.

 

High School Musical 2 (2007, Walt Disney Pictures, dir. Kenny Ortega, 100 min, G) premiered on Aug. 17 on the Disney Channel. Troy gets a summer job at a New Mexico resort and gets invited to become a caddy and “privileged character” and gets a lot of attention, all the while he is applying for his scholarship. His friends start to resent a mildly stuck up attitude. At one point his father said, “Never be ashamed of attention as long as you’ve earned it.” But Troy has to come down to earth. At one point, the entire summer staff of waiters is told it must work the night shift and miss a show. But all’s well that end’s well.

 

High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008, Walt Disney Pictures, dir. Kenny Ortega, 112 min, music by David Lawrence, G), finally an initial theatrical release. The kids put on a Senior Musical and some get into Juilliard. Blogger review.  Compare to “Were the World Mine” (below). 

 

Colma: The Musical (2006, Greenrocksolid, dir. Richard Wong, music and screenply by H.P. Mendoza, 119 min, sug. PG) is a bit like a gay “High School Musical.” True, the “kids” have just graduated, as Billy (Jame Moreno), Rodel (H. P. Mendoza) and Maribel (L. A. Renigen) form a triangle that dances and sings in a fog-ridden town south of San Francisco, through cemeteries and housing tracts make of mobile homes pasted together. There are some dramatic moments, as Billy has an interview for his first retail job, and then has to deal with balancing work with his theater rehearsals. Then there is a big breakup at the theatrical performance itself. Cinemascope. The visuals get a bit repetitious, and the musical setting tends to dilute the drama somewhat, and the characters don’t seem to be drawn as well as in the Disney film above. Despite the gay overtones of Billy and Rodel (the film was shown at DC Reelaffirmations), there is nothing explicit and the tone is that of a pseudo-Disney movie. 

 

Hoot (2006, New Line/Walden Media, dir. Wil Shriner, 90 min, PG) is another movie where playful teens become the heroes; again “kids in America” buck the system and do good with rebellion. And this is in America; middle school kid Roy Eberhardt (Logan Lerman, future president from TheWB “Jack & Bobby”) is living in Montana (with scenery resembling “Brokeback Mountain” and “An Unfinished Life”) but his DOJ official dad gets transferred to Florida. Roy has to assert himself with the class bully Mullet Fingers (Cody Linley) but befriends him, partly after finding him injured and giving him first aid. (Other than Smallville’s Clark, how many 14-year-olds know how to give perfect emergency care for a serious wound? Roy does.) It seems that they are going against a corrupt real estate developer (like someone from a John Sayles movie) who threatens the habitat of a rare owl. In the end, they save the birds. There are great shots of the coastal waterways and even underwater (manatees), but the movie is not full wide screen. Roy does his escape and evasions at time, a little bit like Brick, above.

 

The Climb (1996, Vanguard, dir Bob Swaim) presents a period piece (1959) 12-year-old Danny Himes (Gregory Smith) as inspired to climb a 200-foot radio tower, to offset the family stain by his father’s failure to serve in the military, an idea which was a big deal in that culture. John Hurt plays a lung cancer victim, and David Strathaim plays the dad. Although this film is supposed to be set near Baltimore, it was actually filmed in New Zealand. The final scenes, where simple block-and-tackle physics takes Danny to the top in a thunderstorm, are quite harrowing. IMDB shows three other films with this title (including one in 2002).

 

Cyber Seduction: His Secret Life (Focus/Lifetime, dir. Tom McLoughlin, 90 min, sug PG-13). On this page, I wanted to assemble movies that present “the kids” in a positive way. Here 16 year-old Jeremy Sumpter is a high school swimming star (however “unprepped”) Justin Peterson who will be redeemed at the very end. It’s a mature role, because the teen gets (heterosexually) addicted to Internet female pornography. (The film shows images of the websites, that run amok sometimes as if driven by a virus or by spyware; but it shows no actual nudity.) Now it is just websites, with some material fed by webcams. It’s not that clear why he gets so easily hooked, but is starts to destroy his family (Jake Scott and Kelly Lynch play his parents, and his mother was once a swimming star herself and she expects her son to get a swimming athletic scholarship). He shows it secretly to his curious middle school brother, who is not old enough to be impressed, and is willing to confide in his mother. But soon his brother is accused of sending pornographic spam—probably meaning that his screename was spoofed by a virus introduced by the pornography. The parents move the computer into the family room, but Justin still savvy’s his way around their defenses. When they disconnect the Internet and ground him (which means he and his brother are also crippled in legitimate use, like his homework) he gets porn at the school library. Finally he gets caught and put on probation and is asked to see a therapist. He finally visits a “girl friend” and finds himself intimated, and gets beaten up by kids in the wrong crowd. Then he is ready to reconcile with his family.

 

The movie does not get into the really troubling areas (like chat rooms trolled by predators using webcams, or kids who use webcams themselves to create their own pornography, as with the Justin Berry case reported in the New York Times and on Oprah. The later true story would make an informative docudrama movie.

 

Since I am party to the litigation against COPA (Child Online Protection Act), I see this issue from both sides. More individual freedom and “power” means that parents have to be a lot more vigilant, and it takes teens a maturation process to learn to use the Internet safely (look at the controversy over social networking sites like myspace.com). There are other kinds of content that can be harmful besides outright pornography, and it seems that one problem is that people do not yet have a lot of accountability for what they put up (the “myspace problem” is symptomatic of that); one person’s freedom becomes another family’s challenge. I’d love to get involved with making a movie about the ethics of all of this. Even Lifetime can do a lot better.

 

Strangers with Candy (2005, ThinkFilm/Comedy Central, dir. Paul Dinello, 87 min, R) is the prequel to the famous Comedy Central series. It is written by three of the participants: Paul Dinello, who plays the art teacher Goeffrey Jellineck; Stephen Colbert, who plays gay science teacher boyfriend Chuck Noblet (Stephen Colbert); Amy Sedaris, who plays 46-year-old ex-con Jerri Blank, who re-enters high school, and Mitch Rouse. There is plenty of physical comedy, and cornball dialogue that is a bit like “Saturday Night Live.”  There are high school kids who give Jerri a hard time, as she tries to get a project into the science fair sponsored by the gay science teacher. Dinello appears in a faculty steam room, almost in drag, hairless of body. He and Chuck fight over who is saying “it’s over” for their relationship. They don’t hide it from the Kids. One of the most conspicuous is blond Brason, played by Chris Pratt, who looks a lot fitter here than he does as Bright in Everwood. Chris Pratt and Gregory Smith did the mall tour for Everwood in the summer of 2005, and it is interesting that Chris appears (without Greg) in this film that is kind of an antithesis of “Kids in America.”

 

Almost lost in all of this is the fact that Jerri’s father is in a coma, and she childishly talks in school about bringing him back to life. She does. There is one dream sequence, where “the beast with a million eyes” is reconstructed.

 

Fallen (2006, Walt Disney/ABCFamily, dir. Mikael Salomon, novel by Tom Sniegoski) is ultimately more a youth film than a supernatural one, although the call is close. Aaron Corbett (Paul Wesley aka Paul Wasilewski) is an adopted foster teen who calls his new Age parents by their first names, and has an autistic adopted little brother (Alex Ferris). On his eighteenth birthday, he starts getting headaches and super powers, both, and soon finds out that he is being hunted down by fallen angels. The movie intercuts with flashbacks back to the Middle Ages and in “Heaven” of angels killing each other and plotting. Aaron is on the wrestling team as a senior in high school, and is about to get a college scholarship. He is protective of people, as he defends the local geek (probably gay) from a bully on the team, Peter (Jesse Hutch). (The geek rather resembles me as a teen, so this was a bit heavy. The story could have gone in a different direction here.) He encounters a homeless man Zeke who is also fallen, and discovers his powers when he saves his talking dog Gabriel after a car accident. He also finds he can speak in tongues, even though he has never been to a revival or been “slain in the spirit” as in an Assembly of God. (I witnessed that happen in 1998 in the Brownsville Assembly of God in Pensacola, FL). He learns from Zeke that he is a nephillim, half-man, half-angel, but he may in fact be destined to be a redeemer or savior (rather like Superman). But the fallen angels chase him, incinerating his therapist with spontaneous combustion. Aaron is determined to protect his family, but in a final showdown he must decide whether he wants to be human or an angel. Zeke says “I got tired of letting others die so I could live.”

 

Although this is based on a novel, I can imagine that the geek could have been brought into the story more, and posed interesting additional spiritual problems. The movie does explain some of the theology of fallen angels in a somewhat conventional way. One of my own scripts (“69 Minutes to Titan”), partially available at this site, poses the question over whether one can choose to become an angel or be chosen to be one, regardless of birth circumstances—but might have to live up to a certain code. In my story, a “virus” transmits the angelic capabilities to people, but they can be any people born with the right capabilities. This is a concept that I have explored in a novel manuscript, also. (Should I give away my trade secrets on the Internet? An idea is one thing; executing it in a script or novel in detail with plot and living characters is another.)

 

The sociology of the movie does get into high school (it’s a bit of a glorified “Kids in America”) and into the idea of family loyalty even before one has one’s own kids. Left unanswered in the movie is the question if Aaron could father kids if he remained an angel. (But that’s unanswered of Clark in the Smallville series too). 

 

This 2006 film is now known as “Fallen: The Beginning” and was followed in August 2007 by two sequels: “The Journey” and “The Destiny”. For more see blogger review here.

 

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005, Warner Bros., dir. Ken Kwapis, novel by Ann Brashares, 119 min, PG) is a gentle little romantic comedy about four teenage girls who pass down a hand-me-down pair of jeans that fits each one of them as they go out and look for romance. (Somehow the title makes me think of “The Puffy Chair.”)  One of the girls has leukemia to deal with, and the script has a “Rick Warren”-like philosophical line that external success is not intended for everyone. The pants travel to Greece and to Baja California, and will eventually wind up in good old Charleston, SC.  The boy friends are particularly wholesome and clean cut, and one of them rebuffs a mild dirty dancing attempt. One girl works at Wal-Mart, and that provides some “Barbara Ehrenreich” –like lessons as she (a low wage worker) is threatened with being docked for receipts or other losses. The closing wedding has a minor disruption. The film is a kind of mix of Summerland and Gilmore Girls. Although released under a full studio label (with spectacular anamorphic Panavision photography), it has an indie flavor and a rather lesser known young cast; I’m not sure if some of the actors have appeared in other series with which I have not yet become familiar. The DVD provides a short subject “Suckumentary” where the girls talk about the follies of grownups, especially at Wal-Mart. They are indeed Kids in America. The DVD also features an interview with the book author, who had worked as an editor of children’s and young people’s literature. She discusses her metaphor of clothing holding (or “containing”) our emotions and transferring them among people.

 

The Covenant (2006, Sony Screen Gems, dir. Reny Harlin, wr. J. S. Cardone, PG-13, 95 min). Well, this is one of those stereotyped DGC supernatural flicks, made in Quebec and Nova Scotia, although the setting is supposed to be near Plymouth. MA, but four centuries after “The Crucible.” The Kids here are four young men, apparently descendants of the Ipswich clan (note, the company that gave us WS-FTP) who are supposed to “ascend” at the 18th birthday and have supernatural powers. This sounds like a mixture of Smallville and Fallen. Actually, they start having powers at adolescence, while still middle school kids. The hero is Caleb (Steven Strait), and the other three members are played by Taylor Kitsch, Toby Hemmingway and Chase Crawford. In high school, they are stars on the swimming team (no, fortunately, they don’t have to “peak” in this movie as if in Swimfan), and along the way there are a couple mildly homoerotic scenes – with homophobic slurs. Sebastian Stan is Chase Collins, the outsider who wants the powers transferred to him. (A Smallville season 1 epsiode did this with lightning.) Another hooker is that, once an adult, a member of “The Covenant”, if he abuses or cedes the power, ages very quickly with a kind of progeria. Caleb’s dad (Steven McHattie) has it at 44. (By the way, “Caleb” was the name of an important character in the defunct soap “Port Charles,” played by Michael Easton; in that story you got turned into a vampire.) The B-movie script stays in constant crisis and motion in gothic sets – it has to stick to the genre. That’s a shame because there really were dramatic opportunities with these rather likeable characters. I had called the first part of my 1970 novel “The Proles” by this title. It’s rather common.

 

Teaching Mrs. Tingle (1999, Dimension / Miramax, dir. Kevin Williamson)  A girl Leigh Anne Watson (Katie Holmes) is willing to murder a teacher (Helen Miren) who gave her a bad grade in order to become valedictorian. Do grades mean that much? It’s supposed to be funny. Barry Watson makes an early career appearance as Luke.

 

Charlie Bartlett (2008, MGM / Sidney Kimmel, dir. Jon Poll, wr. Gustin Nash, 97 min, PG-13, Canada). Charlie Bartlett (Russian born Anton Yelchin) is a hyper-active gifted rich kid (with an Enron-like dad in prison and a permissive mother [Hope Davis]) who gets himself and others into trouble everywhere, but, it always seems, as part of making a legitimate protest against the system. He has been thrown out of prep school for running a fake ID laminating service from his dorm room. Back in public school, he is the target for rough kids, but he manipulates his way out of it by seeing various psychiatrists and getting drugs to give out to kids in lavatories at school. He gives them away for popularity, and becomes the school “therapist.” He even helps kids videotape “fight clubs” and makes DVD’s of “movies” of the fights as if they were commercial films. Principal Gardner (Robert Downey Jr.), criticized by Superintendent for not being respected by kids as an authority figure, catches on only when his own overly wired daughter (Kat Dennings) starts “dating” him (and deflowers him). When caught, Bartlett switches gears and becomes a therapist for real, saving a troubled kid Kip (Mark Rendall) from suicide and getting the kid’s play produced, then saving the principal himself, while leading a legitimate protest against school cameras. The movie is a kind of “Kids in America II” except that it was filmed in Toronto. It’s easy to imagine Gregory Smith as Charlie, wlthoug Yelchin is quite charismatic, and a slightly different plot with Meryl Streep as the principal.

 

The Stepfather (2009, Screen Gems, dir. Nelson McCormick, R, remake of 1987 film). Penn Badgley plays “the boy” returning from military school, his chest shaved for swimming team (or maybe for Gossip Girl), ready to undermine the evil stepfather’s attempt to take over his mother’s family.  It’s always up to the kids.  Blogger.

 

Senioritis (2007, Cappies, dir. Glen Hockkeppel) DVD taping of high school stage musical, see link below. On Aug. 22, 2007, Regis and Kelly mentioned “senioritis” with the University of California system rejecting 2% of students already accepted because of slacking off in the senior year.  I now understand that Fox Searchlight is distributing a short on this concept directed by Andrew Karlsruher.

     

Related reviews:. Good Night, and Good Luck    Everwood with “Jack & Bobby”    GLBT films  Billy’s First Screen Kiss  Kids    Shadow Zone: My Teacher Ate My Homework   Stupid in America Summerland   Sunshine State   Brokeback Mountain  An Unfinished Life  Holes   (similar names: Strangers on a Train; Hard Candy)  The Beast with a Million Eyes   Dogma   Camp   Freedom Writers   Senioritis (play)    Were the World Mine

 

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