John Tucker Must Die
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Betty Thomas
scr Jeff Lowell
with Jesse Metcalfe, Brittany Snow, Ashanti, Arielle Kebbel, Sophia Bush, Penn Badgley, Jenny McCarthy, Fatso-Fasano, Kevin McNulty, Patricia Drake, Taylor Kitsch, Woody Jeffreys
release US 28.Jul.06, UK 18.Aug.06
06/US Fox 1h33

Bring it on: Metcalfe and Snow

metcalf ashanti mccarthy

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John Tucker Must Die There's nothing original about this silly revenge comedy, but it has a slightly warped edge that keeps us engaged with the simplistic characters and goofy situations.

John Tucker (Metcalfe) is the big man on campus and, as the girls describe him, "Abercrombie model meets Greek god". And he makes the most of this, by dating every girl around, making them feel like they're the only one. Then three of his girlfriends (sassy cheerleader Ashanti, brainy all-rounder Kebbel and slutty Bush) find out. They team up to turn the overlooked Kate (Snow) into John's perfect woman, so they can break his heart.

The story is told from Kate's perspective, which gives away whatever surprises might lurk ahead, especially once she meets John's quirky, even more gorgeous younger brother (Badgley). But never mind, this is a story about women on the warpath. And it's briskly energetic, even if the script relies far too heavily on corny dialog and convenient gadgetry like Kate's bra-cam.

Director Thomas fills the movie with stylistic touches that are playful (such as the snappy pop song score), nasty (locker-room machismo) and hackneyed-but-funny (the oestrogen joke), plus some dumb gags that work despite themselves, like one involving a frilly thong that just keeps going. And going. There is, of course, the fundamental flaw that supposedly plain Kate is actually more beautiful than the other girls put together, but never mind.

Metcalfe throws himself into the film with abandon, bravely poking fun at his eye-candy image, and somehow turning John into a sympathetic character by the end (big surprise). The girls all get strong scenes and character-defining moments to bring them to life. And it definitely helps to have a veteran like McCarthy flouncing it up as Kate's mom.

If the film lifts its plot almost entirely from Mean Girls, we can almost forgive it, because it's such fun to watch John deliver those obvious chat-up lines, which the girls fall for, despite themselves. His humiliation has a clever spin. And the fact that this actually provides a whiff of subtext helps us stomach the ludicrously simplistic moralising at the end.

cert 12 themes, innuendo, language 26.Jul.06

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2006 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall