In the wacky vein of Bring it On or Drop Dead Gorgeous, actor-turned-director Melanie Mayron’s colourful high school comedy centres on the ingrown lifestyle of suburban Texas. Like those other films, it’s funny, sassy and enjoyable, even though the screenplay is rather weak.
At the center is Starla Grady (Jane McGregor), the star student at Splendona High who wins every competition and controls the school’s entire social structure. Then the French exchange student Genevieve (Piper Perabo) arrives. With her quirky clothes, goofy glasses and perky beret, she seems all shy and cute at first, but slowly begins to sabotage Starla’s carefully planned life, seducing her parents (Julie White and Brandon Smith), her boyfriend (Eight Legged Freaks‘ Matt Czuchry), her pals (Nicki Lynn Aycox and Alexandra Adi) and even her French teacher (Michael McKean). Only her brainy little brother (Jesse James) and a love-struck campus journalist (Trent Ford) remain on her side as she fights to get her life back.
No, the plot is nothing particularly special, and writers Lamar Damon and Robert Lee King don’t bother to be too terribly clever, resorting to the cheap laugh more often than not–usually obvious puns and corny innuendo. But the characters are hilarious and very well played by a slightly second-string cast.
Why are there no top-line actors here (besides McKean and possibly Perabo and James)? There’s nothing wrong with these performers at all–they nail the characters perfectly–but all of them resemble much bigger stars, which is rather distracting and just makes us wish there had been bigger-named stars involved. McGregor is a Julia Stiles/Reese Witherspoon type, Ford is a Josh Hartnett clone, White and Smith are in the Annie Potts and, uh, Michael McKean roles, and so on. Where’s Kirsten Dunst when we need her?
But never mind, this is a brainless comedy that at least keeps us laughing fairly steadily with wry observations and a vicious sense of humor. The story’s main twist is so glaringly obvious from the beginning that we’re not remotely surprised. And at least it’s a diverting way to spend 90 minutes, even if we forget everything immediately when the lights come up. But with a tighter script and a more stellar cast this could have joined the pantheon of great teen comedies.