- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Lindsay Lohan debuted as an adorable 11-year-old virtuoso when cast as the long-lost twins in Disney’s 1998 remake of “The Parent Trap.” She remained up to

speed in last year’s Disney remake of “Freaky Friday,” but the inevitable letdown is now upon us. The defiantly inane and amateurish “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” provides strong evidence that it is time for Miss Lohan to put all teen-pandering scripts on hold, enter college and take a fresh look at the professional acting scene at the age of 21 or so.

As a matter of fact, at the “Parent Trap” press junket, Miss Lohan confided that the Jodie Foster model was regarded as the wise one by her parents. Having honorably updated roles played by Hayley Mills and Miss Foster, the case for higher education seems stronger than ever. Waiting for Disney to scare up something as expendable as “Teen Drama Queen” would be foolish in the extreme.

Mary Cep, the often insufferable heroine, is a transfer student with a prima donna complex. She moves from Manhattan, where she feels the quintessential Gothamite, to a New Jersey suburb called Dellwood, which she prejudicially scorns as Deadwood. Mary has a mother, played by Glenne Headley, and two younger siblings. None of these attachments is permitted to rise above the superficial.

Mary tells a wild and disgraceful story about a father killed in a gruesome traffic accident, invalidated on the face of things by a cartoonish flashback depiction. She also prefers the name Lola and seems to subscribe to the Gwen Verdon anthem “Whatever Lola Wants (Lola Gets).” Unfortunately, screenwriter Gail Parent and director Sara Sugarman prove inept at devising a character-improving comeuppance suitable to Mary’s overcompensating pretentions.

Infatuated with a rock band called Sidarthur, Mary devotes tiresomely devious efforts to crashing their farewell concert in the city. Persuaded that she’s destined for stardom, Mary settles for auditioning for the Dellwood High musical, “Eliza Rocks,” an update of “Pygmalion” crafted by the drama teacher, Carol Kane’s Miss Baggoli, a screwball fussbudget who must have missed the news about “My Fair Lady.” From the snippets we see of “Eliza Rocks,” she does not pose a belated hip-hop threat to the memory of Lerner & Loewe.

The movie’s budget doesn’t seem to permit a concert sequence, so Mary and new pal Ella (Alison Pill) never do get past the lobby on concert night. Consolation staggers their way in the person of Sidarthur’s prodigal lead singer, Stu Wolff (Adam Garcia), who has quit the band and becomes the girls’ hanging-around-the-Village sidekick for an evening. The fact that Mary’s performing credentials are also skimped in the “Eliza Rocks” finale provides a decisive stroke of raggedness to the presentation.

Miss Lohan hasn’t lost her terrific smile and cheekbones, and her rapid-fire delivery could be a long-range comic asset, but the plain fact is that Lola is more of a pain than a charmer. The most attractive and novel teenage role belongs to the dauntingly named Miss Pill, a pale and moon-faced blonde who bears an amusing resemblance to, as luck would have it, the young Hayley Mills.

Although well-heeled, Ella is shy and solitary. She also has a character “flaw” that shames Mary: The prospect of lying to her parents, or anyone, makes Ella almost physically ill.

Ostensibly, both Ella and Mary are supposed to be social underdogs compared to the class princess, Carla Santini, a sneering brunette played by Megan Fox. But this rivalry remains arbitrary and enfeebled. The sounder conceptual notion would demonstrate that a little of Mary’s brashness needs to rub off on Ella while, a more generous portion of Ella’s decency needs to rub off on Mary.

In its irreparable state of shabby cuteness, “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” merits only a prompt and lasting obscurity.

*

TITLE: “Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen”

RATING: PG (“Mild thematic elements and brief language,” according to the Motion Picture Association of America)

CREDITS: Directed by Sara Sugarman. Screenplay by Gail Parent, based on the novel by Dyan Sheldon. Cinematography by Stephen H. Burum.

RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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